Vivid Entertainment Group Diversifies in ‘06

Vivid Entertainment Group this year has shown a willingness to diversify, introducing its brand to new audiences in addition to giving its established fan base a dose of harder sex.

The company points to the launch of the Vivid-Alt imprint, featuring movies from the Alt-porn genre, along with a move into interactive DVDs and the rollout of a few high-profile features as key factors in its recent surge.

“I think we’ve expanded our base from being the company with the most beautiful girls. We’ve had to move away from just that, and had to think in bigger circles,” Marci Hirsch, vice president of production for Vivid, told in an exclusive interview. “I think the movies we are releasing now satisfy different kinds of viewers.”

Hirsch said the Vivid-Alt movies for the first time do not have Vivid Girls on the box covers, a departure for the company that built its brand with contract stars.

“We literally went the total opposite of what we’re known for,” she said. “That increased our demo and our fan base.”

Vivid-Alt titles such as Winkytiki’s The Rebelle Rousers, Dave Naz’s Skater Girl Fever and Eon McKai’s upcoming Girls Lie, have given Vivid traction with a market segment that it had yet to explore.

The company is experiencing a similar response to its first interactive title, Virtual Vivid Girl Sunny Leone, which stars the Vivid Girl Leone. The next Virtual Vivid Girl title will feature the Love twins, Lacey and Lyndsey, and is set to release in February, 2007. Hirsch revealed that Lanny Barby is scheduled to shoot her Virtual Vivid DVD in November.

Meanwhile, author/director Tristan Taormino made an impressive Vivid debut last month with Chemistry, a reality-style title that also appeals to a different demographic. Hirsch also indicated that Taormino is spearheading the new Vivid-Ed titles that are designed to educate consumers on various aspects of their sex lives, and will debut next year.

“I think we decided that we needed to move away from our core and I think that because of that it’s proven effective,” Hirsch said. “I truly believe that this is the reason that people are noticing. When we do something, we try to do it the best possible way, not just financially, but with all of our marketing abilities.”

Vivid in January quietly switched from mandatory condom use in its movies to a condom-optional policy, resulting in sex scenes that are arguably more hardcore and raw. While it’s not clear how much the condom-optional policy has impacted Vivid’s sales figures, the move clearly has opened up the company to a broader range of freelance talent.

“There’s talent that didn’t work with us before who will work with us now,” Hirsch noted. “I just think it opens up a lot of doors for different talent, different directors and different fans. It expands on what we had before…And I think we have a group of girls now that are a lot more sexual than some of the girls that we’ve had in the past. And they’re a lot more willing to take risks that some of the girls in the past wouldn’t have taken. We all seem to have the same goal in mind.”

The current lineup of active Vivid Girls includes Jenna Jameson and Tera Patrick, Savanna Samson, Briana Banks, Cassidey, Monique Alexander, Tiffany Taylor, Lacey and Lyndsey Love, Lanny Barby, Sunny Leone, Stefani Morgan, Brea Lynn and Lacie Heart. Vivid soon will be announcing the addition of another exclusive girl, Hirsch said.

“I think that Savanna and Briana are superstars. They’re the girls that everybody knows that have really proven themselves,” Hirsch said. “Stefani and Monique, and Sunny for sure are great to work with. Cassidey has come back and she is as gung-ho as ever. She’s a wild child, that’s how I see her. And Lanny, everything about her is exactly what we look for in a girl.

"Then there are the new girls. We just shot Brea for the first time and it was her first time on a set. All she’s done is layouts and dancing and she had never shot a scene, but she was great right off the bat. For the newer girls, January [at the AVN Adult Entertainment Expo in Las Vegas] will tell us a lot, on the fan reaction, which is something that we always look for.”

Five of the Vivid Girls – Morgan, Alexander, Leone, Cassidey and Heart - were closely involved with the upcoming Vivid reality show set to debut on a high-profile cable network in 2007. The show follows the making of Debbie Does Dallas… Again, which stars Morgan as Debbie.

“It will show the process you go through to make a big-budget movie,” Hirsch said. “Our process is the same as the big Hollywood movies. It’s just quicker and less expensive. We still do castings, find our locations, talk about wardrobes…we have all the same elements.”

AVN Hall of Famer Paul Thomas directed the Debbie sequel, in addition to helming the star-studded and controversial, Emperor, featuring Janine and Rocco Siffredi in emotionally charged sex scenes. Emperor and Club Jenna’s The Provocateur, which is the directorial debut of Jameson, gave Vivid a pair of blockbuster-caliber titles to ride heading into the fall busy season, adding to the momentum it enjoyed over the summer.

Vivid also recently reduced its number of compilations from eight a week to four, which has helped sales dramatically, according to Vivid National Sales Manager, Howard Levine, who previewed 2007’s offerings.

“We have some great stuff for ’07,” Levine remarked. “We have Where the Boys Aren’t 18, with Tera Patrick; Debbie Does Dallas… Again, with Stefani; Savanna’s Been Blackmaled; which is her first interracial; Perfect Match with Red Light District, where it’s their director (Manuel Ferrara, who is now with Evil Angel) and our girls and it stars Briana Banks; Janine Loves Jenna, and we have Jack the Zipper’s Slaves of Venus."

Levine continued, "We also did a movie with Sunny that was shot entirely in Brazil and it’s called Brazil. Her numbers are really big for someone who is only doing girl/girl.”

Hirsch, a Vivid executive for the past 14 years, works closely with the Vivid Girls, helping them with every aspect of their careers.

“I truly love my job,” she said. “It’s hard to do something for 14 years that you don’t love. I can’t imagine doing anything else. The fact that [Vivid co-chairman] Steven and I are family (brother and sister), some days it’s a good thing, and some days it’s a bad thing. He trusts my opinion for the most part, and he knows I will tell him the truth.”

Marci continued, “Steven and I work really well together. We’ve developed our relationship. We see things kind of the same way. He has taught me more than I can even begin to express. Working on this reality show really kind of brought us together. We both have Vivid’s best interests in mind.”

Marci Hirsch said that the roll Vivid is on can be attributed to identifying areas of opportunity and focusing all their efforts on them.

“Every year we find something, a goal that we all are working toward and lot of this year was about branching out and finding new areas and not only finding the best girls and going after more directors but directors that we think are the best in their area. So we got Eon for Alt, and Tristan for Vivid-Ed and Q. Roberts for the interactive and then Jack the Zipper. And there’s B. Skow and of course, PT.”

Hirsch continued, “We’re planners and it seems to work for us better than just doing something on the fly. I’m a planner and an organizer. Next year there will be something new to focus on.”