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‘Feminine’ Porn Finds a Niche in Marketplace

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Tasteful pornography?

Some would argue that there’s no such thing. But Candida Royalle, founder and head of a New York production/video distribution company called Femme Distribution Inc., has created a thriving business out of making movies that she classifies as tasteful adult fare.

What’s different about these movies--also dubbed designer porn, romantic porn and yuppie porn--is that they’re aimed at women and couples. Standard adult movies are strictly male-oriented.

“Women like erotic movies, but they like them subtle, sensual and romantic,” Royalle said. “What women like is different from what men like.”

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Industry observers insist that single men are still the backbone of the adult home-video market, so the bulk of adult films--which account for 12% of home-video sales and rentals, according to the industry’s major trade journal, Adult Video News--continue to be geared toward them. But a study last year by that magazine indicated that a sub-market, for couples and single women, has sprouted in the last few years. According to the study, 29% of adult-video customers were couples and 15% were women.

And some retailers contend that the market is growing.

“We do good business with single females,” said Maurice Schofield, manager of Philadelphia’s adult chain, Risque Video. “And couples are 25-30% of our business.”

Said Herb Wiener, video buyer for the 12-store Texas chain Home Video Plus: “This market (couples and women) accounts for 50% of our adult-movie business.”

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In business since 1987, Femme Distribution is catering to this expanding market with videos such as “Three Daughters,” “Sensual Escape” and “Christine’s Secret.”

“It’s a market that hasn’t really been explored,” said Royalle, who appeared in some adult movies in the ‘70s. “If more companies started making movies for this market, they’d upgrade the adult industry--in addition to making money.”

Some major adult home-video companies, such as Caballero, Vid America and VCA, make movies for the single-male market that also appeal to the couples-and-women market. “These are movies that don’t have things in them that women would find offensive,” Wiener said. “If it’s too hard-core, women don’t like it.”

But, noted Schofield: “Only Femme makes movies exclusively for couples and women. The movies are ideal for that market. Their movies do very well in our stores. I just wish they had a larger catalogue and that they’d make more movies more quickly.”

What Femme does is make films in which the love-making scenes are incidental and not nearly as graphic as those in hard-core adult movies. The emphasis is on plot and dialogue. They’re made from the female point of view, catering to female fantasies and containing no violence.

“Yes, our movies have frontal nudity,” Royalle said, “but that’s not the focus. The movies are graphic without being gross. The average adult movie focuses on graphic sexual coupling, with little plot or dialogue. The image of adult movies is sleazy. We’re not into sleazy movies.”

Femme’s relatively big-budget approach to its projects counters what’s happening in the rest of the adult business. Inexpensive, cheaply made films have been flooding the market.

“Customers see these cheap films that are horribly made and figure all adult movies are that way,” Royalle complained. “They get turned off and won’t buy or rent any more.”

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Most adult films are shot directly on video. Some cost as little as $5,000 and many sell in the $10-$20 range. Often they’re duplicated at slow-speed, a cost-cutting measure that frequently results in blurred pictures and fuzzy colors.

Royalle, though, said that all Femme’s movies are duplicated at the fastest speed--like regular home-video titles. Also, she explained, Femme’s last few films had budgets in the $60,000-$70,000 range--astronomical by industry standards. Their retail price is $79.95, but many are sold through mail order houses at a reduced price of $39.95.


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