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PORN/Woodard/30″/mike1st/mark2nd By CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter When Paul Wisner began publishing adult magazines out of the San Fernando Valley in 1959, demand was hot. “It was a whole different world. The (adult) magazines were sought after,” recalls Wisner, owner of London Press. “People dealing in adult businesses needed magazines, or they weren’t in the adult business.” Today, hard-core magazines like the ones Wisner churns out of his Valencia plant have fallen on tough times. The porn business is seeing a major realignment and much of it is taking place in the San Fernando Valley, arguably the industry’s biggest center. Adult magazines, long the industry mainstay, are being supplanted not only by adult videos but by an explosion of high-tech alternatives, everything from Internet porn to interactive CD-ROMs and DVDs. Wisner, who says his revenues are half what they were four or five years ago, is selling his 83,000-square-foot plant in the Valencia Industrial Center in the hopes of finding a smaller, less expensive facility. “Video is eating us up. The novelties (adult toys) are eating us up taking up display space in adult stores that we used to dominate,” said Wisner. “There was a time when a consumer would walk into an adult store with $10 in his pocket, he went to the magazines. Now that same consumer goes in with $10 and he can rent two videos and buy (a toy) for his girlfriend.” The industry shift is also cutting into Wisner’s contract printing business, once a healthy source of revenue. But five smaller titles that he printed have gone out of business in the last five years. Now, there are only four publications left that come to him for printing. “A lot of them have just disappeared. As they went bad, they haven’t been replaced,” he said. Wisner is not alone. National publications like Penthouse, Playboy and Hustler have all suffered substantial declines in readership. Penthouse alone has lost almost half its readers in the past few years. Mark Logan, managing editor of Adult Video News, an industry trade publication based in Van Nuys, said that while adult magazines are suffering, business is booming for adult videos. By the end of the year, 10,000 adult videos will have been released in 1998, nearly double the 5,575 released in 1995, according to Adult Video News. An estimated 75 percent of those films are made in Los Angeles County, the majority of those in communities like Van Nuys, Chatsworth and Canoga Park. At the same time, there are an estimated 60,000 adult Web sites, the majority run by a handful of large Internet porn providers that send out images to thousands of mirror sites. That leaves porn magazines fighting for an ever-smaller market share. Many of the magazines have to charge $20 or more per issue to cover production costs. “It’s a matter of time before the magazines die out,” said Logan. The Valley’s other primary adult magazine publisher, Sunland-based Magazine Corp. of America, also is feeling the pain. Company President Mike Parker said declining sales have forced him to look for increasingly offbeat subjects to compete with videos and the Internet. “We produced a magazine with gorgeous girls and we couldn’t sell it,” said Parker. “But if we do something with 400-pound ladies, or midgets any particular fetish that’s working at the time we can’t keep the magazines on the shelf.” The never-ending search for the latest fetish keeps Parker shuttling between trade shows and reviewing the latest adult video offerings. “She-male (transvestite) and the gay stuff is doing well. We try to stay within limits, though. We don’t do bondage,” said Parker, whose offerings include such magazines as Small Tops, Amateur Hours, Hot Male Revue, and Rump. While adult magazines are having trouble finding their place in an increasingly high-tech world, adult video makers appear to be changing with the times. Van Nuys-based Vivid Video, one of the largest producers and distributors of adult videos, was the first company to make use of DVD technology to bring interactive movies to home PCs, said spokesman David Schlesinger. The technology allows viewers to play interactive games or call up biographies on the actors. The company already has its own Internet site, but is looking to expand its repertoire beginning early next year by offering live Internet feeds, as well as live interviews with its stars, the “Vivid Girls.” Vivid, whose films cost between $20,000 to $200,000 to make and often pay for themselves through foreign distribution alone is expanding its reach on cable TV. The company’s videos are already on the Playboy Channel and other adult channels, and the company recently acquired a channel called Spice Hot to further expand its reach, Schlesinger said. “I don’t think video will ever die. It’s a very viable outlet for adults,” he said. “Meanwhile, as DVD makes its way into more homes, that end of the business will definitely take off,” he said. Jeffrey Douglas, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, an industry trade group, said Vivid is an example of the adult entertainment industry’s adaptability. Adult entertainment companies can move faster than their Hollywood counterparts because their capital requirements are less, and their smaller size allows them to respond more quickly to changes in the marketplace. While it took years for Hollywood to make the transition to CD-ROM technology, for example, the sex industry accomplished the job overnight. It’s doing the same with DVD, he said. New improvements in technology will create further dislocations in the adult industry, just like magazines suffered with the advent of the VCR. Downloading feature-length videos over the Internet and playing them on a home computer is impractical due to slow modem speeds and inadequate memory available in most computers today. But all that will change in the not-too-distant future, said Douglas. When it does, there will be another round of dislocation in the industry, primarily in the ranks of distributors of adult materials, including adult book stores and video rental stores. Magazine publisher Wisner concedes that the new technologies have passed him by. He doesn’t own a computer at home and has never “surfed the net.” Wisner says he has been approached by Internet-savvy players looking to form a partnership aimed at posting on the Internet his archive of hundreds of thousands of photos dating back to the ’50s, but the prospect doesn’t appeal to him. Instead, he says he will be content to move to a smaller place and just continue doing business the way he always has. “It’s too late for me. I’m tired, I really am tired,” Wisner said. “We come from a different era. We were pioneers 40 years ago. Back then we showed women’s tops, and that was pretty risqu & #233;. But times change and acceptance levels change. I guess we’ve just become obsolete.”

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