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Porn production plummets in L.A.

Porn production plummets in L.A.
Glenn King, owner/director of Mean Bitch Productions, is photographed at his studio in Chatsworth. King said last year a condom mandate approved by voters made it "too complicated" to shoot in L.A. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

As the film community battles to keep Hollywood close to home, another local industry – adult entertainment -- is fleeing Los Angeles.

The number of permits issued for adult productions has plummeted since November 2012, when voters approved a measure that requires performers to wear condoms on sets.

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Last year, 40 permits were issued for X-rated productions in the city and county, down about 90% from the estimated number of permits issued in 2012.  And through July of this year, only 20 permits have been issued for adult productions, according to data from FilmL.A. Inc., the nonprofit group that handles film permits for the city and county.

"We've seen a dramatic drop in permits," said Paul Audley, president of FilmL.A. Inc. "It is a cause for concern that people who are manning the cameras, lights and other things on those sets are not working anymore ... it's not helpful to have another segment of the industry leave the region."

The decline in adult entertainment comes at a time when L.A.'s production community already has been hammered by the flight of mainstream movies and TV shows to other cities and states offering tax breaks and rebates.

Porn producers say they are taking their business to other counties in Southern California, as well as Nevada, Florida and Eastern Europe, where they face fewer regulations.

"We're not shooting in L.A. anymore and, if this goes through, I don't think you will have any production in the county of Los Angeles," said Steven Hirsch, founder and co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment.  "We'd like to stay here. This is our home, where we've produced for the last 30 years. But if we're forced to move, we will."

Kelly Holland, managing director for Penthouse Entertainment in Chatsworth, which operates 10 television channels and produces as many as 80 movies a year, said her company also has stopped all local film shoots.

"We're not doing any production locally," Holland said. "This month we're shooting 10 movies in Brazil. Last month, we shot five movies in Europe. It's just too complex to shoot here."

The decline in adult entertainment has been widely felt in the San Fernando Valley, where much of the multibillion adult entertainment industry is concentrated.

"Losing an industry like that is going to have hugely negative consequences," said Stuart Waldman, president of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. "We're not just talking about actors or the filmmakers, but everyone from the grips and caterers to assistants. These are people who live in the San Fernando Valley, buy homes, cars, send their kids to school and go to the dry cleaners. If they move, all the money goes with them."

While conventional film and TV producers blame tax credits for driving production outside of California, porn industry producers cite fallout from Measure B, the ordinance passed by L.A. County in November 2012.

The law was advocated by AIDS activists who argued it would protect performers from disease outbreaks.
But the measure has been assailed in the porn industry, which has argued that mandatory actor testing for HIV was already effective, and that the law's real intent was to drive them out of business.

Industry advocates also have argued there is little market demand for condom porn and many performers object to wearing condoms, contending they cause rashes and chafing during hourlong shoots.

A federal appeals court is expected to rule on a lawsuit challenging the law later this year.

Meanwhile, a bill that would mandate condom use statewide, AB 1576, also was narrowly approved by the Assembly recently, causing further alarm within the industry. The bill will be reviewed by a state Senate committee next week.

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Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which backed Measure B and has sponsored the statewide bill, disputes the notion that porn production is leaving L.A.

"There is no question people are filming without permits," Weinstein said. "We're not against porn, we're not trying to drive them out of business. We want to protect the performer and we want them to be a safe industry like any other industry."

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