SAN FRANCISCO—Adult production giant Kink.com purchased the San Francisco National Guard armory in 2016, intending to make the massive building—the castle-like structure covers an entire city block in the Mission District—into the world's largest studio/production facility devoted to adult content. But that "mission" will soon be coming to an end, as Kink CEO Peter Acworth recently announced that all adult production will cease at the facility in February, and staff have already begun moving cameras, sets (including the facility's impressive collection of BDSM equipment), editing bays and other production necessities out of the building, and some producers who called the Armory home are looking for new bases of operation.
The reasons for the move are basically two-fold.
"Porn is not nearly as profitable as it was," Acworth told the San Francisco Chronicle. "We have had to change our business model."
Part of that change included Acworth seeking permission in early 2015 to turn the Armory's enormous Drill Court into a concert venue capable of seating over 4,000 attendees, which permission was approved last April. The Drill Court is expected to bring in much-needed revenue to the facility, which has sunk millions into renovations of the century-old building—but even that may not be enough. The city recently passed Proposition X, which would require a facility like Kink's, which is currently zoned PDR (Production, Design, Repair), to replace any production-zoned losses with other production facilities. However, City Supervisor Jane Kim, who recently won reelection and was supported by several local adult businesses, is reportedly working on a new ordinance that would exempt historic buildings like the Armory from Proposition X—an ordinance that Kink may need to survive. Another idea that's been floated is to offer mainstream filmmakers and television producers office space in the Armory, thus keeping the zoning authorities at bay.
As part of the revamping process, Kink plans to turn the top two floors of the 200,000 square foot building into commercial office space—and another aspect of the decision to remove adult production from the entire facility is to make relocating into the Armory more appealing to non-porn-related tenants, some of whom had expressed reservations about doing business in a venue so well known for lensing adult content—not to mention its industry-related parties.
"Airbnb has a big event scheduled in the space next month, and the [San Francisco Chronicle] notes that another company, cloud communications outfit Twilio had an event there last week," reported Jack Morse of SFist.com. "But others, like event organizers for the Golden State Warriors, have been turned off after seeing the remnants of Kink's oeuvre around the building—like a large portrait of a 'hunting guy with his penis out' up on the third floor—and have backed out of event plans."
The adult divestiture would also allow Acworth to bring in more tour groups to the Armory—already a minor money-maker for Kink—and other more mainstream activities. It would also make the building eligible for a liquor license, since the nudity attendant to adult production would be a thing of the past.
"Most of the company’s directors will stay on as full-time employees," reported Vocative's Tracy Clark-Flory, "although they were also given the option to become contractors, and will be charged with developing their own sets and studios outside of the Armory. Some will stay in San Francisco, while others are planning to decamp to Las Vegas or Southern California, according to [Kink spokesperson Michael] Stabile."
In response to the news that adult production would leave the Armory, actress/activist Lorelei Lee wrote on Instagram, "The city of San Francisco has slowly lost so many of the queer & sex worker support spaces that saved me, that made me who I am. The Armory, with all of its complexities, with its jagged edifice and its haunted history, is one of those spaces. Thank you to all of my coworkers for sharing this magical, banal, strange, exhausting, inspiring, beautiful time and place with me."
It should be noted, however, that Kink's current online offerings are slated to continue, even if being shot off-site, so subscribers to the various Kink websites will continue to get full value for their money.
Armory photo by Mike Hofmann; used with permission