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Leaving Los Angeles: Porn industry flees condom requirements, welcomed to Las Vegas

Published time: August 06, 2014 19:18
Reuters/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

Reuters/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

As Los Angeles County’s requirement that adult film stars wear condoms in all porns filmed there threatens to spread statewide, the industry is fleeing California for less-regulated areas.

Permits issued for adult entertainment productions in Los Angeles plummeted to just 40 last year ‒ a decline of 90 percent ‒ according to the latest data announced by FilmL.A. Inc, the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and county. The jurisdiction is on pace to lose even more X-rated film business, as only 20 permits have been issued so far in 2014. As many as 5,000 porns were shot in LA in 2011, according to the Los Angeles Times, but LA County will likely only issue 35 porn permits this year.

"We've seen a dramatic drop in permits," Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A., told the LA Times. "It is a cause for concern that people who are manning the cameras, lights and other things on those sets are not working anymore.... It's not helpful to have another segment of the industry leave the region."

Audley noted that the porn stars aren’t the only ones hurt by the exodus.

"Adult film making might not be something everyone approves of, but the people who work in that industry are your neighbors. A cameraman may be working on this one day and a sitcom the next and a feature film in six months," he told KABC.

The flight from LA began after first the city council (with the City of Los Angeles Safer Sex In The Adult Film Industry Act) then the voters (with Measure B) enacted legislation requiring adult film actors to wear condoms during all sex acts on set. Both laws came after intense lobbying from the LA-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). Before that, only gay porn stars wore condoms ‒ a reaction to the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s.

Production started moving from LA to other counties, including Ventura, actress and director Kayden Kross told the LA Times’ Jim Newton. But now those areas are at risk of losing the industry as well.

In January, State Assemblymember Isadore Hall III (D-Los Angeles) sponsored AB 1576, a bill that would require porn actors to wear condoms at all film shoots, mandate testing for sexually transmitted diseases, and force porn studios to keep a “log” of all porn stars’ “sexual activities” performed on-set anywhere in the Golden State.

The industry is responsible for 10,000 jobs in California, according to Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association. The majority of heterosexual adult film production is based in LA’s San Fernando Valley, while the gay industry is split between San Francisco, LA, San Diego and New York, SFist.com reported.

"We've estimated this is a $6 billion industry and by losing them, you are going to lose a lot," Waldman told KUSA. "The performers and the caterers and the camera guys all live and work in the San Fernando Valley and when they start to leave, they're going to take all their money with them."

The first major move came in July, when San Francisco-based Kink.com announced it had begun shooting in Las Vegas, where it is opening new facilities. Kink founder Peter Acworth said a few other adult studios, including Brazzers and Bluebird Films, had already made the move to Sin City, according to LA Weekly.

“Vegas is looking more and more attractive as time goes by. The cost of doing business out there is lower. The resources are slowly moving there. It’s becoming easier and easier to do business [there],” Acworth told SFist. “I think that a lot of companies are doing what we’re doing. They’re setting up satellite offices and getting their feet wet with Vegas as a potential place to shoot.”

Along with Vegas, porn crews are shooting in locations in Florida, Brazil and Eastern Europe.

"This month we're shooting 10 movies in Brazil," Kelly Holland, managing director for Penthouse Entertainment, told the Times. "Last month, we shot five movies in Europe. It's just too complex to shoot here." (Penthouse is based in The Valley.)

Even before the news of how bad the porn industry’s LA exodus was revealed, the California Senate Appropriations committee suspended AB 1576, the statewide version of Measure B, on Monday. Diane Duke, head of the Free Speech Coalition, told LA Weekly that the suspension could be a sign of waning support by lawmakers.

“The more legislators hear about the bill, the more they don’t like it. This bill will have major financial cost for the California, while doing nothing to improve the safety of performers,” she said. “And it’s not just performers and producers who are opposed to the bill, it’s HIV and AIDS outreach organizations, sex worker rights organizations, LGBTQ organizations, and business organizations.”