PORN VALLEY, Calif.—The New York Times has discovered what the adult industry has known for the past several years: fewer and fewer porn films are scripted these days.
Of course, over the history of porn films, dialogue has always taken a back seat to hardcore action in the back seat—and everyplace else. And that was before the rise of the reality show, which has taken a toll on scripted entertainment in the mainstream media as well.
Blame the internet, many adult industry experts say. As short scenes have proliferated on the web, pre-sex dialogue for set-ups is kept to a minimum.
"On the internet, the average attention span is three to five minutes,” Vivid Entertainment co-chairman Steve Hirsch told The Times. “We have to cater to that.”
Even Vivid has seen a good part of its content go short form, with little or no storylines at all, whereas three years ago most of its productions consisted of feature films.
"It’s almost like we’re back to the late ’70s or early ’80s, when the average movie was eight minutes and just a sex scene,” Hirsch said.
AVN Media Network President Paul Fishbein told the paper there are several factors at work, including the lower cost of video cams and porn makers with little interest in the plots from the days of yore—the elaborate scripts found in porn flicks ranging from vintage '70s classics such as Deep Throat and Behind the Green Door to goofy '80s movies such as Debbie Does Dallas.
Even the thinnest of plots held together a series of scenes in those older films, attempting to tell stories—though by the mid-'90s many releases were popping up that were just sex, sex and more sex, with little story, if any.
Fishbein told The Times the rise of DVDs as the viewing format of choice in the late '90s brought a return of actual storytelling in efforts to target women and couples for the home market. This culminated in recent years with films such as Digital Playground's 2005 Pirates of the Caribbean-inspired porn epic, Pirates, and its $8 million big-budget 2008 sequel, Stagnetti's Revenge, loaded with period costumes, special effects and, yes, acting. Wicked Pictures' Fallen also upped the ante with an actual layered storyline with narrative depth.
The past year has seen a slew of porn TV parodies as well, ranging from Star Trek (the original series) to The Cosby Show, all paying great attention to details in sets and costumes that stay fairly true to the source material, and even lifting bits of storylines.
But this hasn't stopped DVD sales from plunging roughly 50 percent from $3.63 billion three years ago, Fishbein told The Times. And the internet is again the culprit. As a result, major studios such as Vivid and Digital Playground have plumbed paysite operations online, while feature productions have taken a dip.
"The feature is not as big a part of the industry today,” said Wicked president Steve Orenstein, who told The Times about a third of its productions are now purely sex driven, without story.
But there's still a place for telling a tale while watching people get tail.
Wicked recently shot its upcoming sci-fi-ish 2040, a look at future porn with a classic boy-girl love story, almost—only in this case it's veteran porn star and a cyborg.
Even some porn performers—the ones who truly want to act as well—have noticed the shift to a plotless series of sex scenes, such as Savanna Samson, who told The Times she took acting seriously in roles such as her lead in 2006's Flasher.
"I used to have dialogue," Samson said. "Getting it on in one hardcore scene after another just isn’t as much fun."