The adult entertainment presence at the 24th annual Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) show at the Bellagio Resort accounted for 30 percent of the overall exhibitors. However, the porn crowd is still finding that despite the so-called "mainstreaming of porn" as some are fond of saying, not much was reported or acknowledged about the porn part of the convention.
Vivid Entertainment Group's win of two VSDA Awards, both for Jenna Jameson is the Masseuse (Adult Title of the Year and Best Overall Presentation, Adult Product), didn't seem to get much attention at the awards presentation or at the show the next day.
Jameson's said the latest round of awards meant a lot. "I am completely honored to be recognized for the hard work I put into this incredible film," she said. "I hope that all of these accolades we have received for the Masseuse light a fire under directors in the industry to take a chance on
movies with plots. So many people have said that Gonzo rules this industry, and I am glad to see couples fair still makes an impact."
Club Jenna CEO Jay Grdina, who acted in the film under his stage name Justin Sterling, said, "We are very excited to win at the VSDA awards. It's always an honor receiving an award for something you really put your best efforts into as well as a movie that you are extremely proud of. This was our first co-production with Vivid, and we could not have been happier with the
outcome and success of the partnership. Winning the best adult feature two years in a row means so much for Club Jenna. We would like to thank everyone at VSDA, the distributors, the stores, the fans, and our incredible crew that makes our productions possible."
The third day of the convention was slow moving; for many of the adult exhibitors it was a no-show finale, with two aisles of adult products being boxed up, carted out or, already gone.
"We had two suites and in one suite we had Briana Banks for two days," said Vivid's National Sales Manager Howard Levine (he was aided by a sales team of David Peskin, Michelle Liss and Nicole Murillo). "Lexie Marie made a surprise appearance. We also had Sophia Rossi come in from Club Jenna.
"Briana was giving out t-shirts from ODM, the company that licenses Vivid t-shirts. She gave out 500 signed t-shirts, and Sophia gave out t-shirts from Club Jenna. We had a great show."
Levine said Vivid did especially well showing its products to some new customers.
"VSDA has really gone out of their way to make sure everything was done correctly," he continued. "It was great seeing some old customers and it was really great meeting a couple of new ones. It was very worthwhile for Vivid just to be there. We did very well introducing our products this year to a bunch of retailers that for some reason were unaware of the things we had.
"We're also offering a POP that some of the retailers did not know that we had. Any retailer that doesn¹t have this, feel free to call 866.466.6969.
"We'll give you all the support you need. We don¹t sell direct, but we will give you support as far as POP is concerned, and we'll help you find a distributor."
Peter Reynolds, vice president of sales and marketing for VCA Pictures, came away satisfied with the show. "It gave me a chance to interact with a lot of retailers. It was very productive I thought," Reynolds said.
Sin City Entertainment/Mayhem contract starlet Hannah Harper seemed happy to meet her fans, while Adam & Eve exclusive starlet Austyn Moore admitted, "I like appearing in public as Austyn Moore. It validates my career." Other satisfied attendees included Extreme Associates and Evolution Erotica, as well as DNA, the offshoot start-up run by Dennis D., who recently acquired the rights to the Bruce Seven catalogue from Pleasure Productions/IVD.
"There's gonna be a lot of new things coming out from all of us over here and we're not just saying we're big shots, we¹re gonna prove it to the industry, once and for all," Dennis D. promised.
Tom Byron added, "I'm comin' back in front of the camera" as male talent. Owner Rob Black shrugged his shoulders and said, "More filth this year. Filthy fuckin' pornography."
For many of the exhibitors, this show brought video and Internet and every form of vertical integration to the table. While attendance jumped overall by 10 percent and many were eager to enjoy the festive mood the porn crowd brought, it was a common theme that not much actual retail business was done. Still, a handful retailers and wholesalers filtered through the suites looking for free stuff as much as anything else.
Blame it on the mass market abandonment of this show in general by the bigger stores combined with the overall cheapening of the product and you'll find that re-orders are down overall and growth has been slowed to single digits.
For Bobby Rinaldi, general manager of Wildlife/Powerhouse Productions, more elaborate packaging, 3D productions and trying to stay ahead in every way, shape and form is the solution. "Don't try to get away from the truth here," Rinaldi warned, adding that bigger productions are also on the horizon.
Lava Releasing honcho Ben Turk said that his company would be releasing high-end hardcore from Costa Rica which will include a bevy of exclusive starlets the American public has never seen before.
"Some movie-makers aggressively flood the release market with cheap and disposable compilations reaching into the four-hour market that some forecast as the end of the finished goods business," Turk said.
Lava executive Bob East said that soon the company would be releasing some gay products.
"Lots of good surprises and a great future hopefully will lie ahead," he said. "Whatever the case may be, adult manufacturers have become cooperative with each other while weathering the cold shoulder from mainstream movie and TV programming."
D.C., spokesperson for the foreign licensing company Coastline Pictures, cruised the show floor, as did Bryan Postelwhaite, vice president of The Erotic Network (TEN), eager to meet and greet their vendors.
"There's plenty of business out there and the studios need to force these big corporations to stop taking these unbelievable percentages from the suppliers and make this form of entertainment as vital and alive as we all know it is," Postelwhaite. "It's just not fair and these guys shouldn't take it to hear. Besides, there¹s too much fun to be had after hours."
On the last night of the event, those that remained largely had dinner in their rooms or went to see a show while Las Vegas started getting crowded for the coming weekend. At the Voodoo Lounge, where Ron Jeremy hosted an event, Vanessa Lane looked over the town from the top of the Rio Hotel and summed it all up.
"I'm having so much fun, I¹m staying through the weekend," she said.
Now that's the spirit.
Photo of Ashley Steel and Bella Starr by Hewman Being.