Pictured above, Max Konnor
Launching a new line in this day and age can be a scary venture fraught with risk. That is, unless you’re Mile High Media. You see, this isn’t its first rodeo. Bolstered by the overwhelming success of Icon Male—the gay studio it launched in 2014 that clocks in at 87 films and counting—the company figures to do it again with the debut of its upcoming Noir Male label. Success wasn’t a surprise four years ago, and it won’t be in 2018, either.
“Not to sound arrogant, but at the time I was expecting exactly what happened. The past success we had seen with products we have launched with [director] Nica Noelle, coupled with the fact that we felt there was very little innovation happening in the gay space at the time, I knew we were about to create something big,” says Mile High Media Vice President Jon Blitt of the Icon launch.
“Family roleplay had already been the No. 1 genre in straight porn for over a year at the time, and still not one gay brand had ventured into it. So when we launched it was like an explosion. The market was craving storyline products that would touch on more taboo themes, and we gave it to them. I believe that the success of that brand—and our commitment to making great product—will pave the way for us to continue to invest in new and better products for the gay market.”
Above, Remy Cruze and Seth Santoro
Mile High began more than 30 years ago as a Canadian distribution company, so in a sense it has always been in the gay adult space in one form or another. It wasn’t until 2010 when it began producing its own brand, Male Reality.
“This was a well-shot, low-cost brand that allowed us to service our worldwide customer base with an aggressively priced gay option. With the success we saw in Male Reality, we felt that is was time to take the next step and invest more in this market. In 2014, we were presented with the opportunity to team up with Nica once again—she had previously shot our Sweetheart and Sweet Sinner brands—and create a higher-end storyline product. Based on past successes with Nica and the fact that we felt the gay market was a little stagnant, it was a no-brainer.”
Four years later, Blitt sees another need—and is ready to take advantage of the opportunity.
“The idea for Noir Male has probably been around a little over a year and a half as we are always looking for new ways to innovate and drive our company forward,” Blitt says. “If you look at the gay market today, you see so much black and interracial product, yet almost all of it is brands that are low budget and have either a gonzo and/or thug genre focus. We felt that with the huge demand for black product that we see from market trends, if we put a really high-end, luxury look and feel on this genre of product, we will fill a gigantic void in the marketplace.”
The vice president says they have targeted simple changes that will make all the difference in how their product is viewed versus the current competition, noting that the brand principles are based around the idea of changing the consumer’s perception by shining a positive light on this market. “We plan to do it showcasing beautiful locations, stylized wardrobes, realistic and relatable scenarios, intense sex scenes and—most importantly—the hottest guys in the business.”
Above, Pheonix Fellington and Wesley Woods
The core principle of the new label is to deliver “a stylized luxury brand that celebrates gorgeous men of color.” Blitt says that most of the research Mile High has done shows that black and interracial products are two of the most searched terms in the United States by males aged 18-45. The company aims to position Noir Male as a product that will appeal to that demographic by offering a fresh alternative.
“My feeling is that the gay space is a little more set in their way and change seems to happen a lot slower. I saw this as a huge opportunity to jump into this market as I felt that our experience in following trends and quickly shifting our products to market demand would be a huge advantage for us. If you look at most of our straight productions, you will see that we are constantly evolving and trying new things based on data we are compiling from the marketplace. Icon Male is a perfect example—we didn’t reinvent the wheel, we just took the most trending genre in porn and brought it to the gay market, as no one had even attempted to do any family roleplay products. Fast-forward three-and-a-half years, and almost everyone has followed suit,” Blitt says.
“Our secret for success has and always will be to put our heads down and work hard. Our success isn’t a fluke—we have a really strong team in place from top to bottom, and everyone is aligned to create great product. The one thing we have seen in the gay market is how active the talent pool is in self-promotion. One of the main things we will focus more on as we move forward will be to collaborate more with the talent from both a creative and marketing standpoint. The guys really take pride in their work, and they really get behind a product they believe in. I have been overwhelmed by the support we have received from the talent that has shot for Noir Male so far.”
The debut film will be Black on White, which features four different vignettes that “celebrate a beautifully diverse cast of gorgeous guys in real-life, relatable scenarios.”
Mile High is starting off with one title per month with the plan to grow to two if and when the demand is there. And oh yeah, the label has landed a pretty good director, too: Chi Chi LaRue, with a production team led by Alex Ladd.
“Chi Chi is definitely the perfect fit for this for many reasons, but if I had to pinpoint one—and she loves when I say this—I brought her on because of what I call the ‘Chi Chi effect!’ When we developed this product, we felt the No. 1 key to its success would be if we could get the talent to buy into our vision and what we are trying to accomplish, and there is no better voice to bring that to light then Chi Chi. She is so passionate about this brand and what we are trying to accomplish, and that has been infectious with everyone that has stepped on set.”
Above, Noah Donovan
The studio pre-released a full-length scene for free on NoirMale.com. (“The response has been incredible,” Blitt says.) It also sponsored several parties at the Grabbys, with more appearances featuring LaRue scheduled around the country—where it will continue to distribute a free sampler DVD. A big social media push is planned leading up to the site and DVD launch at the end of August.
“We have already surpassed 5k followers on Twitter and we haven’t launched a thing,” Blitt says. “The buzz has been so strong that models are coming to us to work for Noir Male, and we hope to continue to grow this movement.”
The new studio had already shot nearly 30 scenes in mid-July, and Blitt notes that all of the performers have been amazing—and are vital for its success.
“The reaction we have received from the guys based on what we are trying to do with this brand has been overwhelming. I think it was Max Konnor who tweeted this, and it pretty much sums up what we are trying to accomplish, and that is ‘to showcase black men as they should be seen.’ And let me tell you, the guys we have shot to date are some of the hottest guys I’ve ever seen in this business.”
That’s encouraging for the fulfillment of Blitt’s ultimate goal: to help change the way the industry and consumers look at black, ethnic and interracial products and performers.
“We hope to change the stereotypes,” he says. “There is a lot of opportunity in the gay market, and as long as the market is receptive of what we are doing, we will continue to create new products. Some have faulted me and singled me out for being a ‘straight’ owner, but I block out that noise because clearly the market has spoken and the consumer is the only voice I listen to. Maybe I’m just the ‘Straight Eye for the Queer Guy!’”