LAS VEGAS—The opening of the 2011 Adult Entertainment Expo (AEE) saw many changes from previous years.
For one thing, at this year's show, in addition to the variety of video companies displaying their wares (and, in may cases, their contract players) in Hall A of the Sands Convention Center for an adoring public, attendees also got the benefit of the Adult Novelty Expo (ANE) co-locating in Hall B to display the latest in personal pleasure products—all for one admission price.
Even with the adult industry still heavily affected by the now-two-year-old recession, almost all of the major adult producers nonetheless mounted displays as larger or larger than they had in previous years. (Fans will definitely want to check out the Mile High booth, which features over 50-foot-tall photos of several adult stars.)
However, major producers Vivid Entertainment, Adam & Eve and Zero Tolerance Entertainment all elected to forgo the pomp and circumstance of fielding the masses of fans and retailers eager to see their contract stars, and instead decided to concentrate their resources in business suites, where those companies and several others scheduled back-to-back meetings with distributors, retailers and other adult service providers away from the crush of the crowds that will fill the aisles once porn fans are admitted to the halls beginning on Friday.
"We've got our offices filled now with folks, and we've got a lot of appointments lined up, focusing on our new movies for next year," said Adam & Eve's video production director Bob Christian. "It's Adam & Eve's 40th anniversary, and we're celebrating that with a big party on Saturday night after the Awards show."
Christian told us that the company has several "very big projects" in the works, including one that he won't talk much about, except to say that, "it's basically a green screen movie, and it's going to be almost all special effects, with a little Tron feel to it, a little gamer feel; it'll be one of our big movies of the year."
Adam & Eve has also signed on to distribute all of the Shane's World productions, including the soon-to-be-released Shane's World 42, which was shot entirely on location in St. Maartens, Virgin Islands.
The company has also released a new model of its Natural Contours toy line, which is very powerful and compact and "perfect to hide in your panties if you're so inclined."
Other companies were similarly busy.
"We're all about business here at the show," said Vivid VP Marci Hirsch. "We're meeting with VOD customers, hotel customers, and anybody international."
And what are those customers looking for? "Well, celebs, for sure, superhero movies, and the regular big-budget movies that we've always done, story-driven, and those are our focus now."
The company is about to start production on an Incredible Hulk parody, and a bit further down the road, a parody of a one-shot comic from over 20 years ago, Superman Versus Spiderman, again starring Ryan Driller as the Man of Steel.
Hirsch is proud of her directing team, which includes B. Skow, Axel Braun and Kimberly Kane.
"She directed Beautiful Strangers for us, which got really good reviews, so she's going to direct some more for us," Hirsch said of Kane. "She's really good and really good to work with, and David Stanley is going to direct more for us; he's been writing a lot of B. Skow's scripts. And occasionally we'll use other directors that have been recommended to us by people whose opinions we trust. We have a movie coming out that Mr. Pete directed, Mr. Pete's POV. We've done interactives before—Sunny Leone, the Love Twins and Sunrise Adams—but this is the first time we've done a straight POV movie."
Several companies expressed satisfaction at being able to meet their customers in the relative quiet of the suites, located just off the main exhibit floor next to the ANE booths.
"We want to be here where the customers can find us," said Ray Burke of K-Beech. "We've set up a lot of appointments with both distributors and retailers. It's kind of nice because we're in here with a number of other companies that we all know, and it's a smaller group but efficient; our customers can come here and knock out a dozen different companies all in a row. The less walking our customers have to do, the better."
This year, Burke is pushing the companies three main imprints, Sex Line Cinema, Cherryboxxx and Baby Doll, each of which releases about one movie per week, and he hopes to be able to release another volume of the company's Pornomation animated series, which takes its artist over a year to create. He's also proud of Vampire Sex Diaries, directed by Gary Orona, which has been nominated for several awards.
Speaking of Orona, "We'll be doing more work with Tabitha [Stevens] and Gary; they're doing fantastic stuff, very innovative work," said Marcus West of Zero Tolerance Entertainment—producer of the multi-nominated Sanatorium—and Evolved Novelties, which also opted for a suite. "We've got more in the works with those guys."
"We've got a lot or exciting things going on," West told AVN. "We're launching our new marketing program called the 'Zero Tolerance Dolls,' which will include our contract dolls Kagney Lynn Karter and Courtney Cummz, as well as some up-and-comers, like our Gracie Glam doll, who is our January doll; Alexis Texas is our Winter doll, and she'll be featured in a number of our upcoming movies."
No, the "dolls" aren't the blow-up kind; they're a marketing tool.
"Ann Marie Rios is our February doll, and Lexi Belle is our March doll, so we'll have a doll coming out every month, and we'll also have a seasonal doll: Tori Black is our Spring doll, so we're not only putting them in our features, our parodies and our interactives, but we're also going to feature them prominently on the site with real three-dimensional types of activities without customer base, hosting parties and things like that, so our fans can not only buy the product but go out and see them live."
The Doll campaign will be integrated with some upgrades to the company's web presence.
"There'll be a lot of events on the website," West said. "We're relaunching the website ZTCorporate in the next two weeks, a B2C site, so there will be a whole new face to that. It's going to be much more about the girls, and we'll have webisodes, more fun types of things. Mike Quasar's going to have a corner called 'Ask Mike,' where fans can ask him any kinds of outrageous questions, and he'll respond the way Mike usually does. We're going to have 'Inside the Porn Actors Studio,' which will have a real deep dive into the girls, what's happening in their lives from a fun perspective. The girls really like to give that kind of access to their fans, and we want ZTCorporate to be home to that. Our girls will each get a lovely Tiffany's necklace with a Z on it, to say, 'Welcome to the ZT family; you're part of the Zero family; you're a doll of ours.' It's our way to let the fans know to come to us for the higher quality talent."
Some suites like Wicked Pictures', Evil Angel's and JO Systems' were so busy with meetings that we couldn't get into them for interviews, but we did manage to corner a spokesperson for New Sensations/Digital Sin, who informed us of the company's upcoming products and marketing.
"One of our big pushes is our romance line, in part because of all the nominations we've gotten for it," the spokesperson said. "So our big movie here is Awakening to Love, as well as our XXX parody line. We have the comedy parodies released through New Sensations, and then our Revolution X/Digital Sin distribution which does Sex Files stuff. Upcoming, we have our Scooby-Doo parody, which will be released January 31. There's no dog in it, because the plot is, they've lost Scooby-Doo and they're looking for him. We have another romance coming out, which is called A Little Part of Me, starring Bobbi Starr; we've very excited about this one, so those are going to be our two big ones for January."
"We've had a lot of people in and out of our suite, in part because we have a new toy line that we're doing," she continued. "This is the year we release our new toys through New Sensations Novelties, so we have the Shane Diesel dildo, which is a mold of his penis, and we also have the Ashlynn Brooke Perfect Pussy, along with our tattoo dildos; these are tattoo art on a dildo. Those all came out this year, and we're pushing them for the first time in the AEE setting. The second thing we going on as far as toys is TME Products; they released the Buzz Bunnies, our personal massagers, this year, and they have Asian-influenced anime characters on them."
Also fielding suites this year were Jules Jordan Productions (though that suite was barely occupied, with company personnel spending all their time working their booth on the main exhibit floor, which feature signings by Bree Olson, , Rachel Starr and Amia Miley), Evil Angel (whose suite and booth were always crowded, and which featured signers Kelly Divine, Jynx Maze, Bobbi Starr and Sophie Dee) and Heatwave Entertainment, whose owner, Gabor, was so busy that he didn't have a chance to talk to us.
And speaking of the main exhibit floor, for many of adult's biggest producers, big was still better when it came to booths.
"We've been getting a lot of requests for distribution, co-oping; it hasn't stopped for three days," said Bluebird Films award-winning director Nicholas Steele. "We've been here since Monday, and we haven't gotten to sleep before 3 o'clock any morning."
"At Bluebird, we have rather a nice stable of contract girls,?" added company owner (and one of its major performers) Paul Chaplin, "and rather than see them again and again and again, Natasha Marley, for example, does 12 scenes and that's it; she's done. That's her thing; that's what she wants to do, and it keeps the movies fresh: Natasha, Madelyn Marie, Linsey Dawn McKenzie and Gemma Massey, those are the girls of 2011, and wait till you see the girls of 2012. They're already starting to work with us."
Chaplin also gave us a little insight on the difficulties of both running a company and performing in its productions.
"Acting is kind of an extension of my personal life, because most of the girls I work with, we have an off-screen relationship of some kind, so it's a continuation of something that's off-camera on screen," he said. "I find it gives the girl's performance a comfort zone they don't normally have. One of the things I get quite a lot, one of the things I'm encouraging, particularly for the UK stars, is to try experimenting, working with other guys, Americans, and they always say, 'I can't; they're too big! But you're okay, Paul.' Which is a little sad... but it does mean I get more anal."
Fans can look for Baberunner, a Bladerunner parody, as well as a Salem witch movie and a "big rock 'n' roll" movie to be released by Bluebird in the coming year.
Right around the corner at the Hustler booth, things wee similarly jumping, with long lines for autographs of its featured performers.
"We've got a lot of girls signing for us this year," noted Hustler's Drew Rosenfeld. "We've got Andy San Dimas, Madison Ivy, Teagan Summers—brand new; in fact, we shot her first scene for Barely Legal six months ago—and Breanne Benson, plus we've got some rotating girls coming in tomorrow, including super-MILF Lisa Ann, who'll be promoting all the stuff she's done for us; Jayden James is stopping by, and Misty Stone is with us Friday and Saturday. We'll also have classic star Sunset Thomas; she's good friends with Larry [Flynt], so we let her come down and hang out and market all her stuff, and it's a good draw for us too."
A couple of the companies scheduled "pretty girl" photo shoots for Thursday morning: Chanel Preston, a nominee for this year's Best New Starlet award as well as the star of Extreme Comixxx's Justice League XXX, posed for a half-hour at the Juicy Entertainment/Exquisite Multimedia booth, and shortly after, Girlfriends Films' contract players Prinzzess and India Summer also posed for eager cameras.
Girlfriends' owner Dan O'Connell mentioned that in the coming year, he'll be creating a VOD site for the company's all-girl action, and will be creating a new site for customers that's expected to go live at the beginning of April.
We caught up with Tom Byron at the Juicy/Exquisite booth, and he said he plans to meet with a number of classic MILFs to act in upcoming volumes of his multi-nominated Seasoned Players series, including returning star Inari Vachs in Vol. 15. He's also expected to meet with returning star Nikki Charm, who, he said, he almost got into a fight over with the late performer Buck Adams.
We also ran into producer/director Kelly Holland at the same booth, who announced that her company was leaving PurePlay, and that all Penthouse videos will now be distributed by Juicy.
In other convention news, booth producer Video Simplex was showcasing its latest arcade booth, which can play 500 different movies or, really, "As many as you want," a spokesperson said. "It all depends how may computers you want to hook up to it."
Award-winning director Skye Blue was spotted discussing upcoming projects with several companies, while the multi-nominated Sunny Lane mentioned that she'd be appearing at the Metro booth in her "Alice" costume on Friday.
Over at the AEBN booth, we learned that ther company will for the first time be allowing wholesalers to market its signature RealTouch system, while just down the aisle, there were so many attendees seeking autographs from Wicked Pictures contract gals Jessica Drake and Alektra Blue that the company had to set up barricades to keep the eager fans in line.
And that's just some of what went on during the opening day of Adult Entertainment Expo 2011.