From: firstname.lastname@example.org (enigma)|
Subject: Reuters/Variety story
Date: 31 Aug 1997 11:03:30 -0400
Organization: Concentric Internet Services
Stumbled across this story on Yahoo. I'm passing it on for anyone who didn't see it.
Thursday August 28 1:29 PM EDT
FEATURE: Filmmaker Wants To Make Porn Respectable
By David Brinkerhoff
LOS ANGELES (Reuter) - Paul Thomas once played Jesus Christ on stage, but 20 years later the self-described "lusty" director is seated in a Hollywood bar arguing that more people should watch his porn films for the plots.
Thomas is top director for Vivid Video, a California adult entertainment company that says it wants to take porn to new heights by making it mainstream and respectable.
Vivid staged its first-ever Hollywood-style screening for critics recently to show them that between the grunts and groans, porn films can have plots and production values just like real movies.
But in its bid to be respectable, Vivid cut some corners. It deleted all the sex scenes in Thomas' opus "Bad Wives" for the screening. This left only the plot -- about a couple of bad wives, one of whom eats soap, and their even worse husbands and the devil, who makes them all happy after a lot of sex scenes that the preview audience did not get to see.
"I think there's a lot of people that would enjoy an erotic film as good as the one we showed tonight," Thomas said.
Vivid co-founder Steven Hirsch, 36, agreed, saying the sex scenes were cut out of the screening because "We wanted to show people that we makes movies, not just adult films. For the first time in history an adult entertainment company is getting into the mainstream."
Hirsch may never have heard of "Deep Throat" -- or maybe he wants his films to emulate its huge success. He is talking big about his company's future. Revenue grew 15 percent last year to surpass $20 million and he sounds like he wants something that is hard for anyone to achieve in Hollywood -- respect.
CASHING IN ON DEMAND FOR SEX
Like many others, Vivid is trying to cash in on the growing demand for sex on the Internet, satellite and cable TV. Deals with Playboy's cable channel are giving it a higher profile in hotel rooms and homes.
Its Web site, "Vivid University," features "sororities" where female stars are shown nude, scantily clad or having sex. In the interest of "safe sex," the Web site features a "boss button" for office browsers who need a quick switch to more respectable pages.
Vivid's stars also want respect.
"We'd be (seen) just as good actors, if not better than actors in mainstream," if porn were not a tainted business, said Dyanna Lauren, who plays Tracy Jo in "Bad Wives." She said her fans want storylines, plots and dialogue. "(Women) like to see a setup," she said.
Vivid will grind out 72 videos and films in 1997, Hirsch said. Nine will cost $190,000 each to make -- a huge amount in an industry that usually spends between $7,000 and $60,000.
"It's a return to the way things used to be in the late 1970s and early 1980s," Thomas said. Back then, more time was spent in production, and movies were made on film. With the proliferation of video in the early 1980s, quality went down, and the market was flooded by products any amateur could make.
"It was so cheap and easy to do (a video) and most of them had no art. .... The story content suffered," Thomas said.
FEAR OF HOLLYWOOD
While bigger markets mean larger budgets for directors like Thomas, he and other industry veterans hope Vivid's new direction does not dilute porn by "going Hollywood."
"R-films, those are terrible," Thomas said, referring to the Hollywood rating for films restricted to those 17 and over. "There's never a payoff. If you mainstream it too much you ruin (porn). It has to be a little edgy, a little nasty."
But Vivid is covering all its bases in an effort to diversify. The company recently signed a deal with Hustler magazine to produce films. Only Hustler's name will appear on the videos.
"In the Hustler (videos), we will focus more on the sex, and the story won't be as important," Hirsch said.
Vivid also is throwing a weekly party at Billboard Live, a Los Angeles club, where it shows film clips that look more like MTV than "Debbie Does Dallas."
Is this Generation XXX and will Hollywood crash the party?
"It makes me uncomfortable that porn's getting close to mainstream," said Jon Dough, who appears in "Bad Wives" and who revels in the memory of his early porn days, when it was illegal to film these movies.
Dough liked the taboo of being underground and worries that one day Hollywood will threaten the porns by jumping in. "They're gonna put the little guys out of business," he said.