The Killer App? Porn Going 3-D

Historically, Hollywood has led the way in advances on the big screen, while the porn industry has moved technology forward in homes. As tech innovations occur faster and faster, though, what’s happening in the theaters is happening almost simultaneously in the living room.

The push for 3D in theaters is growing fast.

Earlier this year, Dreamworks released “Monsters vs. Aliens,” promoting the film with a 3D commercial during the Super Bowl. James Cameron will unveil “Avatar” in 3D this winter. And

3D audience
3D audience

Disney has been particularly aggressive in embracing 3D, with several upcoming releases, including Tim Burton’s “Alice in Wonderland,” the update to “Tron” and “Disney’s A Christmas Carol.”

Now the porn industry is pushing 3-D to homes.

The move started in January, when Hong Kong-based One Dollar Productions announced plans to film “3-D Sex and Zen”. Budgeted at an usually large $3.9 million, the company began filming in April and is reportedly aiming for a December delivery.

But once a plan gets announced in the adult entertainment business, it usually gets emulated in quick fashion.

Pure Play Media, a Chatsworth, Calif., company that distributes adult films on DVD and through cable, satellite and hotels, will release a 3-D “choose your own adventure” DVD in late Sept.

“Probably every five years somebody comes up with something and says ‘this is going to be the next big thing,’ but it never pans out. This could be different,” says Richard Arnold, CEO of Pure Play. “I was skeptical even up to viewing it, but when I saw it I said ‘holy cow this is like nothing I’ve seen before’.”

The film will ship with a pair of 3-D glasses, letting anyone with any sort of existing television set, … um, enjoy the performances. It has also been optimized to work with forthcoming television sets that have 3-D technology built into them. Those sets will cost thousands of dollars.

(Panasonic and Mitsubishi both had these sets on display at the Consumer Electronics Show earlier this year.)

Shooting in 3-D actually doesn’t dramatically increase the cost of an adult film, says Arnold. A typical run-of-the-mill adult film produced in the United States costs about $20,000 to create, he said. A 3-D film costs an additional 15 percent. Pure Play is already planning its next 3D film with plans to shoot one every quarter.

Beyond the curiosity factor for customers, there’s another advantage for filmmakers - both mainstream and adult — that make 3-D films for home use. Pirating these sorts of films is much more difficult.

That’s particularly appealing for the adult entertainment industry, which has seen DVD sales plummet 40 to 50 percent over the past three years, due to in-part to piracy.

While porn companies might be the reason VCRs and DVDs became staples in American households as fast as they did, Arnold says he believes Hollywood will be the trend leader with 3D technology.

After all, given the expected price of the 3-D outfitted sets ($5,000 and higher), it’s doubtful that even the most avid porn enthusiast would be willing to shell out that much for the experience, given the typical viewing lengths.

“In our business, you don’t need the continuity of a 100 minute movie or have to have a particularly high production quality,” says Arnold. “Our average viewer watches between 7 and 11 minutes.

“We’ve talked to the broadcasters and the ones we’ve talked to are really trying to figure out how to push this. Their challenge is to find a way to get consumers to start watching this. It doesn’t sound like anyone we’ve talked with has really come up with a solution yet.”