As the final countdown to the 2007 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo approaches, the industry is gearing up for what insiders predict will be the event’s biggest and best year to date.
“The show looks like it’s really shaping up well,” said AEE spokesperson Sean Devlin. “We have more than 340 exhibitors who are going to be on site and over 250 leading stars of the adult entertainment industry. We’re expecting thousands of retailers, industry leaders and fans to converge on the Sands Expo Center this week. We’re really excited…everything’s in place, and we’re just waiting to open the doors.”
AEE is the largest event of its kind in the world, encompassing all aspects of the adult industry including the GAYVN Expo and a significant Adult Novelty Business (ANB) presence. The massive size of the 2007 expo is a testament to a growing mainstream acceptance of porn – and to an increasingly overcrowded marketplace. At a time when many adult companies are complaining of a financial slump, the convention is hitting a peak in attendance.
“In terms of all the regular numbers I’ve seen, we are tracking above where we were last year,” said Devlin. “In 2006, we had 320 exhibitors. If people are saying that the numbers are down, I wonder where they’re getting that info, and why they’re saying it – because it’s factually untrue.”
The most dramatic illustration of the show’s magnitude will be seen on Saturday night at the 24th annual AVN Awards. Attendees used to the traditional hotel ballroom ceremony are in for a shock, awards show producer Gary Miller told AVN.com.
“There has never been an awards show like this one,” Miller said. “Until you see it, you can’t really imagine just how huge it’s going to be. With the change in venue to the Mandalay Bay Events Center, we have a seating capacity of 7,000. The hotel is putting its name on the marquee alongside AVN, and they’ve been promoting the event heavily since October; they’re running a commercial for it on exterior and interior video displays. This is the first year we’ve sold tickets through Ticketmaster; the show will most likely be sold out.”
Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, AEE will overlap with the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) on Wednesday and Thursday only. While the Adult Entertainment Expo is not affiliated with CES, porn’s lucrative role in driving the home video industry has always united the two conventions. With the Internet and other rapidly-changing technologies hurting DVD sales and rentals, the innovations on display at CES are now more important than ever to the adult industry.
Adult producers and distributors across the board cited the online and video on-demand markets as key to doing business at the impending show. “A lot of adult is heading toward the Internet, so we’re looking forward to meeting new broadcast and VOD clients,” said Stuart Wall, vice president of Smash Pictures. “We’re meeting with new content providers and foreign clients, as well. We have a big booth, right up by Vivid and Club Jenna, so we’re pretty excited.”
The high-definition adult DVD is making its AEE debut this week – an atypical instance of porn following behind the mainstream movie industry in launching a new video format. Big-budget studios such as Wicked Pictures and Digital Playground will be pushing their respective HD-DVD releases as a main component of their AEE presentations. Wicked became the first adult producer to enter the hi-def arena with its December release of Camp Cuddly Pines Power Tool Massacre.
In another growing market trend, the alt-porn genre will have a major corporate presence at AEE through the one-year-old Vivid Alt label. The show means big exposure for label head Eon McKai, alt poster girl Joanna Angel and up-and-comers like Charlotte Stokely, who is one of 15 nominees competing for AVN’s coveted Best New Starlet honor.
“Two years ago, when I started in this business, I basically came out and threw a little party in a hotel room,” said McKai, whose forthcoming Debbie Does Dallas redux will be featured in a behind-the-scenes documentary series on Showtime this year. “Now, I’m going to be at the Vivid booth, handling all the talent and directors for the company. It’s a pretty big change.”
Given the high-profile publicity opportunities at the show, Stokely told AVN.com that she plans to keep her focus on business as opposed to partying. “This show is serious,” she said. “Last year was so much fun; I stayed hours later than I was supposed to. I couldn’t stop smiling…I was so excited to see all the fans, and to meet with new companies. But I don’t think I’ll be going to a lot of parties this year; I can go to Vegas any time. I have some interviews and photo shoots scheduled, and we’ll be having the AltMakers Ball with Joanna Angel. If I have any free time outside of the show, I’ll probably just play some Texas Hold ‘Em, maybe win a couple of bucks.”
The ongoing popularity of gonzo porn will be represented at AEE by such heavy hitters as Evil Angel, Jules Jordan Video, Anabolic, Elegant Angel, Red Light District and Vouyer Media. “Because we don’t have contract girls, I’m really happy to get a chance to work closely with talent,” said Evil Angel’s Karen Stagliano. “We have eight girls signing at our booth this year, and it’ll be great to work with them. Also, this is a time that all of our directors get together, which doesn’t happen that often.”
Best New Starlet nominee Sasha Grey is one of the performers signing for Evil Angel at the expo. The 18-year-old starlet told AVN.com that she has been inundated with AEE interview requests from both mainstream and adult media.
“Until now, I’ve only met one or two people who have been fans of mine,” said Grey, who has been working in porn for a scant eight months. “I’m expecting to do a lot of interviews; right now, I’m actually trying to slow down on the amount of interviews I do, but because this is the AVN show, I’ll be talking to a lot of people.”
Also competing for the Best New Starlet trophy, Wicked Pictures contract star Kirsten Price is looking forward to a big year at AEE. “This is my third year going to the expo,” Price said. “I’ll be hosting the red carpet for Playboy TV this year with Jessie Jane and Carlie Banks. I’m also supposed to host a Playboy party, the Wicked Pictures party…Wicked has a new booth, and I’m looking forward to seeing my fans and all the sexy people from the industry.”
In the Euro-porn field, one of this year’s biggest AEE debuts is the North American launch of director Pierre Woodman’s international company Woodman Entertainment. The former Private and Hustler auteur will be showing off a preview of XCalibur, said to be his most extravagant production to date.
From sick, high-end features to the roughest amateur efforts, it’s hard to fathom the sheer volume of porn on display at the 2007 show; a comprehensive preview of all the 2007 AEE action could likely fill a small encyclopedia.
“There really is nothing that compares with AEE,” Devlin concluded, “because it brings together everything: the studios, the adult stars, industry leaders and fans. It’s going to be an incredible event.”
For AEE ticket information and a complete list of exhibitors and events, go to www.adultentertainmentexpo.com. The 24th annual AVN Awards will be held the night of Jan. 13 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center. For tickets, call (818) 718-5788 ext. 117, or log onto www.avnawards.com and ticketmaster.com.