New Release DVD Titles See Major Drop in First Quarter of 2010

CHATSWORTH, Calif.—The amount of new release adult DVD titles saw a 21.3 percent drop in the first quarter of 2010, compared with the same period in 2009, a new survey by AVN shows. And for the month of April 2010, new releases dropped 26.4 percent from the same period last year.

While the adult industry has felt the squeeze of a bad economy, coupled with an increase of free adult content on the internet, the numbers of new movies released to the market remained stable throughout the last few years. When supply outsized demand, adult manufacturers tried to grab more shelf space by increasing the amount of new titles they released.

Now, some established adult studios have either lessened the amount of new releases, replaced their new titles with compilations (four-hour, eight-hour, 20-hour) or re-releases (including boxed sets of older movies) or have ceased production altogether, according to interviews with suppliers, wholesalers and retailers across the country.

“We are definitely seeing a lot less new releases,” said Colin Allerton, director of studio relations for DVD Empire, one of the country’s largest online adult retailers.  “There are production companies where we haven’t gotten new releases in six months … some have gone out of business altogether. In general, that is helpful to the overall situation because they weren’t necessarily putting out the best quality product.”

During the first three months of 2009, the adult industry saw 2,892 new releases (discounting re-releases, compilations and Blu-ray titles which were duplicates of regular DVD new release titles). The first quarter of 2010 saw 2,383 new releases, accounting for the 21.3 percent drop. In April 2010, 741 new titles were released, compared to 1,009 in April 2009.

“It’s probably less than 741, because how do you define a new release?” asked the buyer for one national adult DVD distributor who requested anonymity. “I can tell you for a fact that many of your so-called major studios slip an old scene or two into a new release and most people never notice. So maybe it’s two-thirds of a new release, but unless some fanatic watches every movie, you’ll never know. I’ll bet some of those 741 new releases in April were not totally new releases.”

Kim Gallagher, 16-year veteran of New Jersey-based IVD, the country’s largest wholesale distributor, said the company does distinguish between real new releases and compilations.

“One of the interesting things happening is that a lot of what I consider good companies are now releasing four-hour titles,” Gallagher said. “And they are coming out as new releases and stores are selling them as new releases or renting them. And this replaces a slot where they would put out a new feature.

“People still want good quality and since they are coming out from good companies, they are getting quality footage and consumers can actually buy a DVD at a lower price,” she continued. “So the studios are using their old footage, are saving money and it’s selling pretty well. These companies don’t have the money to make new releases anymore so this is a way to get what they can consider new releases out at a value.”

For the first quarter of 2009, IVD purchased 3,075 titles that they consider new releases, but included in that number were 247 titles which were four-packs, 20-hour releases, four-hour compilations, etc. Movies released as features which were actually compilations were not excluded. For 2010, their first quarter purchases included 3,099 new release titles, with 304 of those accounting for four-packs, 20-hour releases, four-hour compilations, etc., but the new release number included compilations marketed as new titles, Blu-ray DVD releases, re-releases of older titles, etc. While that shows only a 6 percent drop, it does not account for what people in the industry call “fake new releases”—that is, compilations disguised as a new release.

In April 2010, IVD counted 878 new releases, which included re-releases, Blu-ray titles, four-hour compilations, etc.

“We’ve seen a significant drop in the harder porn new releases, gonzo titles which seem to match the garbage that people can find on the tube sites,” said Leyton Croxdale, vice-president of purchasing for the 31-store chain Peekay, headquartered in Auburn, Washington. “Not as much on features and high-end product. I think that customer is still there, but the real drop, where it’s most obvious, is in the porny categories.

“It reduces the selection and makes the job easier, but there’s not enough room for error,” Croxdale continued. “Unlike the old days where anything will sell, now you can make actual mistakes that just sit there. We still do OK with new releases, but since we look for high production values, we buy more quantities of the better titles, even if they are older, and something like Pirates decimates anything else.”

Rondee Kamins, CEO of General Video of America in Cleveland, has a unique perspective on the new release DVD market, as she serves as a wholesaler, owns a chain of retail stores and releases new movies under the monikers Sticky Video, Shooting Star and Black Magic Pictures.

“I’m seeing a decrease in what we’re buying in new releases,” she said. “Our customers are not demanding as many new releases, but our customer base is smaller. So I’m not sure if it’s all relative. Our [video] buyers are being more careful than ever before and with our POS system, we can make more thoughtful buying decisions. We know which new releases sell.

“I think that what happened is the DVD got devalued,” she opined. “Whether you’re paying $1 or $2, since people sell it in their stores for $4.99, nobody wants to pay $19.99 for a DVD. We have a harder time selling a new release in our own stores because the customers don’t want to pay $20 … even though there’s such a huge difference between a Wicked title and something you’re paying $2 for. The customer may not care about the difference. And the customer can get so much online for free. I see the numbers of new releases we’re selling in our own stores decreasing but not on the lower priced stuff.

“As a wholesaler I’ll say the same thing. They [retailers] may pick up a few new titles a week of new releases, but they’ll want 100 of something more economical. So that affects the new release buy since they are earmarking a certain part of the budget for DVD.”

DVD Empire’s Allerton agrees. “The consumer is definitely looking much more for the bargain, and with all the free options out there, the price has become king for the consumer,” he related. “When people get acclimated to free porn because they don’t have money to buy it, it’s hard to get them back.”

Allerton also concurred with Croxdale of the Peekay stores, saying that a good quality title will continue to sell, even if it’s not a new release.

“The demand on new releases is not the same … the emphasis is on the bestsellers,” Allerton said. “It’s a challenging situation, because obviously the suppliers want to send us as many new movies as possible. It’s harder to predict what the consumer is going to jump on. In the past you could promote much more freely, and as long as people were seeing banners for it, it would sell. It’s become a pickier consumer.”

However, everyone interviewed for this article did concede that while fewer new releases were hitting the market, the high quality productions still do big numbers.

Fly Girls from Digital Playground is a good example, as it is still doing phenomenal,” Allerton concluded. “The consumer is still looking for the quality. Look at the parodies. There is correlation between how much money a studio spends and how well it sells. The higher the quality, the better it does.”