AEE Day 1: Exclusive Report

LAS VEGAS - Despite the general economic downturn and weakening sales of both DVDs and downloads, exhibitors at the 2009 AVN Adult Entertainment Expo exuded guarded optimism about the year ahead. The general feeling seemed to be that while business may not be booming, the adult industry's still functioning and that's a reason for cheer.

"People are still ordering. There are still customers out there buying, so you'd better get your product into the stores," said Danny Gorman, general manager of Juicy Entertainment, which along with parent company Exquisite Multimedia, had a booth that spread all along the side wall at the front of the hall.   

There were fewer big booths than in previous years in Hall A of the Sands Expo Center, but the upside of that was wider aisles, giving exhibitors, buyers and fans much more space to move around in.

"If nothing else this will be a great fan show," said Jules Jordan, who was up front bright and early at his popular "Pornitentiary" set, manned by its staff of "professional perverts."

And even though the first day was trade-only, plenty of fans were on hand for a plethora of stars.

When the show officially opened at 9:30 a.m., Vivid Entertainment Group was up and running with contract girls Meggan Mallone and Hanna Hilton on the job and smiling. Only minutes later Jessica Drake and Kirsten Price took their positions for Wicked while fellow contract star Stormy Daniels presided over the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Teensy-tiny Madison Scott, a Barely Legal all-star, mounted her chair for Hustler Video at their no-frills booth, also in the front row of exhibitors.

Jada Fire was the first star on duty at the Evil Angel booth, while Jenny Hendrix and Andi Anderson took the early shift at Jules Jordan Video, which had the Brazzers booth nailed to its back end, Nikki Benz at  the helm.

Jordan called Brazzers, which he distributes, "a juggernaut. We're doing numbers like we did in 2003, 2005, with them. People identify with the brand from the Internet."

Though some older companies were absent, newer ones took their place. Most imposing of all was Briana Banks Entertainment, with an elaborate construction fit for a true porn queen.

"When people ask me where we are, I say just look for us, we're the booth behind the Briana Banks booth," said Tom Byron, whose huge banner for Tom Byron Pictures was plenty imposing itself.

Several  companies took Business Suites downstairs in Hall G, instead of opting for fan-oriented booths. Wicked Pictures did both, with a suite in addition to their usual lavish presence upstairs. There must have been a very private meeting going on behind the closed doors of  Wicked because owner Steve Orenstein was sprawled on the floor in a corner of the suite area doing business on his cell phone.

"He's worn out," chuckled New Sensations/Digital Sin owner Scott Taylor, taking a breather between appointments. "We have meetings scheduled all day. Things are going well."

Does he miss having a booth on the main floor?

"Not one bit," Taylor said. "My business is generated by my customers who display and sell my product in their stores and on their websites. Those deals are made with the owners of those companies, and this is a very conducive environment for that."

Bluebird Films maintained a large and lively suite that included a flat-screen TV for promotional reels from the brand-new company, headquartered in London and Los Angeles. Veteran producer Nicholas Steele, the man in charge of American operations, said the first U.S. product will be released next week. Future releases, both features and niche product, will see his own return to directing.

Other companies with business suites included Anabolic, Vouyer Media, Harmony, Pink Visual and the triumvirate of Zero Tolerance, Third Degree and Diabolic. Pink Visual also had a suite in the main hall, as did Pulse.

The B2B section, also downstairs in Hall G, was the usual welter of small businesses: sextoys, lubes, penile enhancement products and other novelties, as well as a modest outpost for the Free Speech Coalition. Perennial B2B exhibitors like East Coast News (ECN), The Stockroom, Njoy and The Alexander Institute were all there.

More small businesses and novelty producers were on view upstairs as one moved toward the back of the hall. And all of them seemed to be, at least on the first day, in a positive state of mind.