Another salvo in the war for "family values"...
By Kitty Bean Yancey, USA TODAY, Feb 4, 2000
Debbie won't be doing Dallas anymore - at least not at the Omni hotels there.
The chain has begun phasing out adult movies - a moneymaker at hotels and motels nationwide - and plans to eliminate them at its 30 Omni-owned locations by June.
The response from guests is positive, says Omni marketing vice president Peter Strebel, citing more than 25,000 messages of support including many from "family values" groups) and just a few complaints.
"Some of the cards have been from businessmen saying, 'Thanks for removing the temptation,'" Strebel says.
The move was prompted by Omni chairman Bob Rowling's view that the chain should not make revenue on pornography. "I'm a father of two boys," says Rowling, who took the reins at Omni three years ago and became uncomfortable when he saw what late-night entertainment was available. "It wasn't the kind of thing we wanted offered at our hotels."
He and Omni president Jim Caldwell made the decision to back away from porn and say they're sticking to it. The move is a gutsy one because pay-per-view adult movies, which typically cost more than other offerings, are a profit-maker for hotels.
In general, adult programming represents half to possibly three-fourths of hotel in-room movie sales," says Len Sabal of Cabil Corp., a support and billing service for cable operators.
Omni will lose its undisclosed cut of adult-movie rentals and must come up with about $4 million to replace TVs that had been placed free by the chain's previous cable provider. By June, the only Omni properties that can opt to show adult movies will be the 10 owned by franchisees.
"It's a loss we were willing to take," Caldwell says. He adds that the chain has received cards saying, "We will look for your hotel when we travel."
Properties dropping adult fare include the Omni Mandalay in Dallas, Omni Shoreham in Washington, Omni Berkshire Place in New York and Omni Parker House in Boston.
So far, other big hotel chains are sticking with explicit fare (though, as might be expected, adult movies are not allowed at Disney-owned resorts).
At Holiday Inns, adult movies can be blocked from rooms if a guest wants. Ditto at Marriott's nearly 1,600 properties and at many other chains.
At Super 8 Motels, "it's pretty much left up to the owners' discretion" whether each property will offer adult movies, spokeswoman Jennifer Nemeth says.
A major adult-video producer is surprised by the Omni decision. "We live in a society where sexually oriented content appears everywhere, from music CDs to mainstream movies," says Vivid Entertainment Group president Steve Hirsch. "We will see how this affects occupancy rates."
Backing away from spicy fare has not been without cost for another firm, Adelphia Communications. Whenever it takes over from a previous cable operator and removes adult movies from homes or hotels, "we face a lot of wrath from customers," spokesman Paul Heimel says. "We have taken a hit."
The company, based in Coudersport, Pa., doesn't want to traffic in adult films because of the "small-town values" of its owners, the Rigas family, Heimel says. "They don't believe in chasing the almighty buck at the sacrifice of your personal values."
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