VSDA Goes Bellagio: Change is Good

This year’s 24th annual Video Software Dealers Association (VSDA) Show moved from the Venetian hotel to a new location, the upscale Bellagio Resort. The show floor was the location for mainstream exhibitors while the adult and independent suppliers and distributors were housed in open and appointment only suites on the 27th and 28th floor.

Piracy was a major theme at the two-hour opening session where keynote speaker Jerry Lewis, looking healthier and cracking wise delivered an extended joke-filled, 45-minute set. The comedian took every opportunity to pump up his October-scheduled, 10-disc, boxed set release of selected Lewis films from Paramount Home Entertainment. Interspersed with clips from his fall release, Lewis shared poignant memories of his early career with Dean Martin and injected his schmaltzy tale with oddly placed cracks like the Rodney Dangerfield staple, “Talk about ugly. When I was born, the doctor was so offended, he slapped my mother.” Timing wasn’t a consideration and Lewis careened through a lengthy, elliptical monologue as the crowd, energized by the excitement of opening day took it all in stride.

VSDA president Bo Andersen, in his "State of the Industry" address, focused on Internet piracy of movies here and abroad, calling on the movie business to attack piracy through public education. To the adult entertainment crowd, nothing new was revealed here as manufacturers like Red Light District easily can support Andersen’s claim that for every legit DVD sold, a pirated copy makes it into the marketplace.

On the 27th floor, where the adult exhibitors reigned supreme, early in the day business was brisk as the open suites were charged with the buzz that seeing old friends and making new contacts brings to this show. A few hours later, a notable dip in software distributors and retailers had more than a few of the suppliers scratching their heads and wondering where this show was heading. By the mid-afternoon, the overall buzz from the change of venue seemed to morph into a change of business strategies as foreign suppliers, digital solution providers and licensing agents seemed to outweigh the bricks-and-mortar business crowd.

Industry veteran, Bob Johnson, of Playboy.com offered, “It’s time for all of the studios to get creative with content as there’s so many new opportunities, the industry will have to mirror the Hollywood co-production deals made in the ‘40s where the majors got together and did bigger movies and broke into new markets together, utilizing each other for strength and individual expertise.” Johnson noted that you can’t build a business these days on gonzo videos, lower prices and heavy release schedules.

Metro Interactive brought another changing of the guard, as industry veteran Noel Bloom was seen working deals and smiling his famous bemused grin adding, “With all the little guys coming into the game, there’s going to be a consolidation of distributors and we’re planning on big things in the coming year. We’ve been doing great movies, adding new lines like Loaded Digital and aggressively breaking into new territories and markets. You have to change.”

For Exquisite Multimedia company owner, Jerry Estrada, there’s plenty of change afoot as well. “We’re going strong in the ethnic and interracial markets and amping up our packaging for the fall. We have a new series called Black Gag and it’s the first gagging movie with an all-black cast. The packaging will feature spot UV foiling and embossing and we’re also kicking things up a notch with an interracial squirt series, Squirting Brotha’ Lovers, the first interracial squirting movie.

Estrada excitedly laid out his plans to get behind Pitbull, the hottest rapper in the ethnic market, who is working with Luke, aka Luke Skywalker, recipient of the Free Speech Coalition's Hal Freeman Award for his battle for protected speech in recordings. The rappers will be hosting Uncle Luke’s Bachelor Party, with no release date in sight.

Over at Swank Digital, sales director Mike Foster and producer James Baes announced the North American launch of Erotic Planet, a German-based company with a huge library of high-end hardcore ranging from romantic movies to glitzy and nasty hot gonzo porn with gorgeous people and more than a handful of product lines that will make Swank Digital a releasing powerhouse in porn.

Tobias Bauer, the head of marketing and sales for Erotic Planet, sees a future where international borders will disappear and digital content provision will be determined by overall excellence and company catalogs that offer something for everyone.

“The marriage of Swank Digital and Erotic Planet will place both companies at the pinnacle of quality and quantity worldwide, Bauer suggested. “Both names are known all over Europe and the States and this combined effort and dedication to delivering the best possible programming solutions to every delivery platform and the end user will prove to be the future of our business.”

Digital Playground would win the award for most exciting open suite if there was one. The DP team transformed the luxe anchor suite into a jaw-dropping journey where the trailer of DPs “co-pro” blockbuster production with Adam & Eve, the much anticipated Pirates kept the shipped-up suite crammed from prow to bough. Jesse Jane and Carmen Luvana proved their pirate booty was the most valuable treasure on hand, as they aughed, signed and smiled as flashbulbs popped, autographs were inked and the girls enjoyed their moment in the spotlight.

Time flew by as adult industry insiders caught up with each other and spent much of the afternoon schmoozing and taking the time to voice opinions on what seems to be the hottest topics in the business: blowout pricing on new releases, packaging, licensing and broadcast solutions.

David Joseph, owner of Red Light District, is taking the high-end approach to releasing, arguing, “There’s companies out there who are killing the business with crazy pricing on new releases. They’re pretty much giving it away and the mass market retailers are scooping it up, forcing companies like us and Evil Angel to stop selling to them. The consumers will follow the product, that’s a fact. And with our launch of Red Light District Films going big budget as well as releases like Outnumbered 3 from Erik Everhard where he’s featuring 22 of the hottest girls in the industry in one of our most expensive gonzo titles ever, the choice will become easier, in our view,” Joseph offered.

The open suite hallways were deserted by the end of the day, many of the exhibitors dashing back to their rooms to unwind before hitting the entertainment and gaming areas hard. It’s a lot to consider that porn producers are becoming content providers, theaters have given way to finished goods to digital imaging and porn stars, are still, porn stars.

“Thank God some things never change,” Fatt Entertainment executive Jon Blatt mused as he bantered with IVD and Pleasure Productions honcho Frankie Kay about which girls didn’t show up, came in late, left early and all seemed to have special requests aplenty and other outside interests, making for a comfort zone of social interaction that Blatt summed it all up with a laugh saying, “Hey, these girls put the fun in dysfunctional.”

Seen on the scene, LGI and Sex Z Pictures owner Bo Kenney with a limousine loaded with a bevy of porn beauties, spilling out onto the sidewalk in front of the Bellagio Resort. And starlet Vanessa Lane announcing, “I wanna dance tonight, all night long and tonight, I wanna be wearin’ clothes.” Not for long, we’d wager.

Photo of Jesse Jane by Hewman Being.