Porn and the Condom Conundrum

Los Angeles may be about to lose its title as the US porn capital.

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The L.A. City Council voted Tuesday to make condom use mandatory in adult films. And adult studios are already planning how to minimize the effects of that law.

Technically, the legislation, which will tie mandatory condom use on set to city film permit approvals for porn shoots, needs to first be approved by the city's mayor — and won't go into effect until police officials, the city attorney and others figure out how it might be enforced. That gives adult entertainment companies time to adapt. And some of the biggest studios say the first option is to relocate production to other areas.

"[Studios] will move out of the city of L.A. and they'll stop shooting here," says Steven Hirsch, founder and co-chairman of Vivid Entertainment, the industry's largest studio. "There's no question of that. … I'm not sure what they're going to accomplish aside from kicking the industry outside of the city "

Hirsch estimates porn studios have shot over 300,000 scenes in the past six years, with the majority of those being filmed in the L.A. area. (The San Fernando Valley is nicknamed "Porn Valley" because of the industry's tight concentration there.)

A filming permit in L.A. carries a basic application fee of $625 and usually comes with additional costs, depending on location and the activities filmed. That makes the porn industry a notable source of revenue for the city.

Scott Taylor, founder of New Sensations, says his company will comply with the law for L.A. shoots, but he, too, expects to move filming outside the city.

"L.A. County does have borders and if we need to adapt, we will," he says. "It's a real pain to do so, but we will have to find off-the-beaten-path locations."

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One location that could become a new favorite is Las Vegas. The town that bills itself "Sin City" is already a second home to the porn industry, playing host to its annual convention each year. Additionally, there are tax savings to be had by shooting there that could cover some of the expenses of moving production to the area.

Ultimately, say studio executives, the decision on where to focus shooting if they do move productions outside of L.A. will depend on where the performers settle.

The decision to make condom use mandatory for adult actors is a notable winfor the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which has been lobbying for it for some time. The Free Speech Coalition, the porn industry's trade association, criticized the vote. A legal challenge is possible, though isn't certain, say insiders.

And the porn exodus might not stop at filming locations. Hirsch says Vivid hasn't made any final decisions but is not opposed to relocating to another city if performers begin to settle in a new territory.

That's a move of last resort, of course. Moving a company to another state carries a lot of expense — and for a studio as diversified as Vivid or New Sensations, it's not always practical.

Taylor, for instance, says he has no plans to leave L.A.

"I have a multitude of businesses," he says. "I have a distribution facility that puts the products in stores and an Internet division that handles a lot of digital sites, so uprooting that core and moving it really isn't realistic."

Smaller studios, though, might be more willing to uproot. Or, alternatively, they might simply ignore the regulations or film without permits — as many currently do.

"There will be many smaller companies that will go ahead and shoot anyway," notes Hirsch. "Some people will shoot their movies regardless."

Some porn studios, meanwhile, won't be affected at all by the law. Girlfriend Films, which specializes in lesbian movies, won't have to change its practices. And Wicked Pictures has maintained a condoms-only policy since 2004, putting it in compliance with the new legislation.