Kink.com, the successful porn company based in San Francisco, opened its Los Angeles studio at a strange time: two months before a potential industry shake-up in which that county's voters would decide whether condoms should be mandatory on porn film shoots.
The expansion was financially strategic. Most porn actors, called "models" in industry parlance, live in L.A., and Kink was paying out to fly them up for Bay Area shoots. Beyond that, L.A. offered Kink a chance to diversify its aesthetic, says spokesman Michael Stabile. Its main studio, in the massive Armory, allowed only so many sets, while L.A.'s pornographic infrastructure provided rentable mansions and outdoor scenery.
But when the condom policy — Measure B — passed on election day, the Kink brass wasn't worried. Sensing the law's possibility, the company erected the L.A. studio primarily for live-cam shooting, where models work solo as consumers across the country watch the action in real time online.
Just as Kink was expanding into America's porn hub, though, America's porn hub was considering relocation, bringing along its 10,000 or so jobs. Condom porn is not as good for business, says Theo Sapoutzis, CEO of Adult Video Network, the industry's premier multimedia platform. Viewers apparently prefer the raw stuff, and companies forced to use rubbers would be at a competitive disadvantage against the non-L.A.-based counterparts.
The porn industry plans to fight Measure B. Meanwhile, Miami and Arizona have been proposed as new hubs. Las Vegas is the sexy favorite, but neighboring Ventura County remains the practical option. Kink's success in San Francisco, however, has made the city a dark horse in the competition.
"Overall in our industry, San Francisco has a very good reputation, in terms of being a liberal city," says Sapoutzis. "I won't be surprised if companies started moving there."
Alas, the city is a long shot. Porn companies, it turns out, are similar to the mass of middle-class people who have packed up and left town for the East and South bays.
"San Francisco is fantastic for Kink in part because we fit well with the culture there — it's a natural fit," says Stabile. "But San Francisco is still very expensive when it comes to space."
And the big companies, such as L.A.-based Vivid Entertainment, need space. Big, opulent living rooms with lots of natural light, and sunny backyards with swimming pools and lounge chairs are pornographic staples. Those sets, of course, are about as common in San Francisco as Dodgers fans.