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6 May, 2010 20:05

Economic crisis affects the adult entertainment industry

A survey of adult entertainment outlets in Los Angeles and New York shows how this industry has been affected, both positively and negatively, by the recession.

If we talk strictly geography, few outside California know of a sleepy suburb called the San Fernando Valley. It sits within a 15-minute drive from Los Angeles, the town everyone knows for its Walk of Fame, recently preserved giant hillside sign, and clash of numerous cultures spread abundantly throughout its confines. If the fantasy land of Hollywood is known as "Tinseltown", then the alternative fantasy land of the San Fernando Valley is known jokingly as the "San Porn-ando Valley" or "Silicone Valley."

This is where five of the largest X-rated movie studios have found a home. In the San Fernando Valley, porn is an estimated $13 billion industry that provides work to around 1500 people. The production of videos usually takes an impressively quick two to three days, with hundreds of films coming out every week. 

One of the companies located in the valley is Wicked Pictures. It signs girls to lucrative contracts and is arguably the most professional studio within the industry. One of Wicked's contract girls is Jessica Drake, a very established and reputable porn star. Her life is now is very different from her humble beginnings in San Antonio, Texas. She was once on her way to graduating with a degree in psychology from the University of Texas at El Paso until she decided to "dance" as a way to help pay for college. But she reached a crossroads during those years, and the dancing continued. The college life didn't. If you ask her how she feels about taking that path, she'll tell you she has no regrets. She'll also tell you she loves her job despite the still-present social stigma and the fact she has sex on camera to pay the bills.

But the social stigma that once surrounded porn in the United States seems to be breaking down, and that has turned out to be a double-edged sword for studios like Wicked Pictures. On one hand, it has meant an increase in business, but also a proliferation of competition, including competition from amateurs. And this dynamic couldn't have come at a worse time for the adult entertainment industry, which learned recently that a industry that's long been considered recession-proof has found that's not always the case.

In New York City, the adult entertainment business has felt the recession in the world of strip clubs. Randi Newton grew up in Nebraska, went to college, left college, and became an assistant financial analyst at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter. Then, some years later, she left become a professional dancer – stripper – at a place called “Rick’s Cabaret.”

For Randi, adult entertainment offers better pay and better hours than finance. Now, known as the “Wall Street Stripper,” she feels that her choice was the absolute right decision.  

As a result of the bad economy, strip joints are seeing an uptick in job applications.  Now the women who apply are likely to come with an impressive resume attached. It’s a sign of the further deterioration of the social taboo placed on adult entertainment by many Americans.

But do you think companies, executives, and entertainers in adult entertainment don't wholeheartedly embracing this breaking down of the social taboos because they are seeing their bank accounts dip. Less inhibition means more participation, which means more competition, which means more revenue. Just ask the big X-rated movie companies based out of the San Fernando Valley. They are now scrambling to find new and innovative ways to differentiate their product from the mom-and-pop porn endeavors. And someone like Randi is a bit of a threat.

As far as Randi, she still holds onto a little of her financial roots. She bought stock in the company that runs Rick’s Cabaret. And after telling her parents about her new career choice, her parents bought stock also.