New Award: Best 3D Release

LAS VEGAS—The AVN Awards have always been at the forefront of new technology. In 1996, we inaugurated five award categories dealing with the then-new CD-ROM format, though adult companies were only just beginning to release titles of that sort. And when adult DVDs overtook the adult CD-ROM market in 2000, AVN's staff and reviewers were quick to recognize the entertainment potential of that medium as well with four award categories.

Hence this year, with 3D technology likely to be the new "thing" in adult movie (and possibly web) production in the near future, AVN inaugurates its Best 3D Release award.

Stereoscopy, or 3D, however, has been around for more than a century, and history records several instances stretching back to the 1960s where sexually explicit 3D movies have been released in theaters. Older fans will fondly remember The Stewardesses, which had little hardcore, and fewer will recall German imports like Prison Girls and Love in 3D which hit theaters in 1972. All were shown in polarized format, similar to how mainstream 3D movies are viewed in theaters now. More recently, two XXX 3D movies from the late '70s, Lollipop Girls in Hard Candy and Disco Dolls in Hot Skin, shown in anaglyph (red/blue) format, have been featured on the college circuit.

The first serious attempt to release a line of adult 3D movies was made by Vidmax, which released over 20 3D titles such as Boudoir Babe and Freak Club in straight, gay and even trannie genres between 1993 and '97. However, Vidmax's chosen format—sequential-field 3D—required the viewer to wear cumbersome electronic "shutter glasses" which had to be connected to the person's VCR via a "synch box,"  and consumers found the process too expensive and/or too complicated to bother with—and the company quickly went out of business.

In 2004, director Cash Markman helmed two anaglyph 3D productions for 3DFantasy Films, Dark Dimension and The Naked Truth, both distributed by S&S Entertainment, but apparently the porn-viewing public wasn't ready to accept the "new" genre just yet.

With recent advances in digital projection, however, Hollywood has grabbed the 3D ball within the past two years and run with it all the way to the bank. Mainstream 3D movies—mostly animated productions—have consistently outscored their 2D brethren at the box office, and James Cameron's Avatar in 3D is currently the top-grossing movie of all time with receipts of over $2.7 billion in theaters alone.

And in a rare case of the adult industry riding Hollywood's coattails, adult producers are quickly gearing up to release hardcore 3D productions, first in anaglyph format, but all have announced plans to release polarized versions as soon as more consumers have invested in the new 3D TVs and the new 3D-capable Blu-ray players (whose market penetration admittedly has slowed due to the recession). In fact, London Gunn Films will soon release its 2009 hit, Tommy Gunn's Cummin' At You in 3D on Blu-ray.

In all, more than a dozen adult 3D productions are expected to be in stores by the end of September, including Hustler Video's much-awaited This Ain't Avatar XXX 3D. Several major adult producers including Wicked Pictures, Digital Playground and Penthouse Films, have at least experimented with 3D even if they have no immediate plans to release movies in that format.

Adult movie production may never be the same again.