Executive Seat: Michael Lucas – Activist, CEO
On the battlefield of business, especially in the adult world, few executives can be described as having the rare attributes of the warrior/monk who can run the mundane daily aspects of a successful company and at the same time affect a given industry by his philosophy.
Performer, executive, activist, intellectual and citizen of the U.S., Russia and Israel, Michael Lucas, CEO of Lucas Entertainment fits the bill as closely as anyone in adult today. He is the sole owner of the company that bears his name — Lucas Entertainment — and directs all of his company’s movies as well as acts in many of them.
XBIZ asked Lucas how and why he chose to start a gay production company and more importantly, how he’s become the “go-to” guy for heady speaking engagements when it comes to gay rights and the state of the industry.
Lucas entered the business as a performer in 1995 confident that he “had what it takes” to become a star in the business. His early success in films like “Back in the Saddle” coupled with his inherent knowledge of business prompted him to start his own company.
In 1998, New York-based Lucas Entertainment was born and has grown into what the executive says is the biggest gay production company on the East Coast and one of the largest in the industry.
Having been on the performing side of the camera Lucas appreciates good talent and attributes his company’s success to superior performers. “Our work is fueled by some of the best talent in the industry. I’m happy to be collaborating with the best cinematographers, “ Lucas said.
He also gives credit to his media machine – PR and communications that he feels is unsurpassed in the gay adult community. The company prides itself on its marketing firepower fueled by three fulltime publicists.
Lucas said he also feels his company ahs an advantage because of its New York location explaining that the city offers many undiscovered locations in which to shoot films. Ina addition, the talent pool for gay performers provides new faces that aren’t seen in other companies’ movies.
“Overall, we know how to make sex look great and have hot exclusives.” Some of Lucas’ more successful films include “Michael Lucas’ La Dolce Vita,” “Gigolo,” “Men of Israel,” “Inside Israel” and “Missing.”
Lucas approaches the creation of his films first from a talent perspective and then from the business side. The combination of performance smarts and knowing what will sell is a key to Lucas’ market strategy.
“I’ve had the pleasure of working on both sides of the camera. I know what works and what doesn’t work for models, as well as being able to capture fucking that turns on our customers. We’re constantly praised for how realistic our sex scenes are. It’s not staged and choreographed,” he said.
He added, I’m also a firm believer in having a story line, because people like to know why guys are having sex. Dialogue between scenes can definitely make a production hotter.”
The approach rings quite different from most films that are made simply for masturbating – especially in a tight economic climate. But this is what makes the gay business warrior/monk unique. His leadership is more cerebral and some would say scholarly.
And although Lucas has graduated from Russia’s prestigious Moscow Law Academy in 1994 and has spoken at Oxford University’s Oxford Union (on the proposition of the motion “This House Believes That the Gay Rights Movement Has Undermined Family Values,” where he argued that the element of choice in gay couples’ relationships cripples the reasoning of “traditional family” advocates) he doesn’t tout his academic accomplishments as being the major key to success. “I’m not sure if my academic background has had a major impact on my adult career, but since I graduated from law school, I’m quite adept at legal matters and building successful strategies for the company.’
Lucas recently filed suit against 65 John Doe defendants seeking to put a halt to the file-sharing of “Missing,” the gay suspense thriller filmed on location in Barcelona.
His savvy knowledge of technology gives him a firm grasp on where Lucas Entertainment is headed and the framework for a unique digital game plan.
“I think technology trends will affect the industry incrementally. Basically, gay customers have become very comfortable with watching porn on their computer. That’s a key channel and any improvement to the viewing experience is very important. Beyond that, I don’t see one “big” thing but a lot of small things that we will have to manage carefully and in combination with each other. Mobile, for example, was touted as the next big frontier but in gay at least, it hasn’t been such a big deal yet. But obviously we need to keep engaged with the technology and our friends at Spankmo are doing a great job for us. 3D is interesting but somehow I don’t think all porn will suddenly turn three-dimensional. Cable, for gay porn at least, has been a long slug; there is some broadening of shelf space and it’s nice incremental business but it, too, won’t revolutionize the industry. Neither, so far, has “download to own,” he said.
But Lucas also points out that despite the sexy allure of technology, DVDs continue to do well.
The executive said that technology will continue to help business because each new delivery platform has the potential to increase exponentially, but tech must be weaved into the strategy carefully. “We’ll have to continue to knit all this very carefully into our overall consumer proposition and continue to view predictions of revolutionary change, for the better or for the worse, with a fair degree of skepticism.”
But he isn’t skittish about moving DVDs. Lucas said his company has an extremely aggressive content distribution schedule, with 24 new DVD titles released every year, along with two new scenes each week on our membership site, LucasEntertainment.com.
“I’m proud that our overall revenue is growing steadily at 20 percent annually.”
In terms of marketing, the Lucas Entertainment brand is noted for its high quality productions and top-level talent. A hallmark of the company are its titles that feature a variety of international locations, highlighting the sexual vibe and energy of a number of urban centers.
“We present a variety of men and sexual experiences in our productions. Again, New York City gives us a very diverse model pool, allowing us to showcase men of several different racial backgrounds. Our “Raunch” line has given us the opportunity to explore many fetishes, including watersports, cum eating, feet play, and most recently, sex in stockings,” Lucas said.
Future productions will expand upon exotic locations. Lucas said the company is planning on shooting in Brazil later this summer the idea of along with our end-of-the-year blockbuster (HINT??) in New York in early fall.
The company’s online presence also has ambitious plans.
“We’re in the process of revamping our company’s website and we’ll soon be able to offer our members better navigation and search capability, along with the several hundred hardcore scenes and thousands of images we currently provide. We’ll also be releasing a line of dildos through Topco,” Lucas said.
But it’s not all work for Lucas. He is currently working on an autobiography and speaking with three publishers that he plans to be out by the end of the year as well as a biopic documentary film.
A staunch self-proclaimed Zionist, Lucas has commented on “Europe’s Trouble With Israel” and why the U.S. shouldn’t “throw Israel under the bus,” among other topics. Lucas been quoted numerous times in the gay publication The Advocate on Russia’s gay pride struggle and slammed Madrid’s political decision to not invite Israel to its gay pride celebration.
The outspoken executive has also been invited to speak at Yale, Rutgers, Stanford, and has been featured in mainstream press including New York Magazine and The New Republic He’s also appeared on HBO and local New York news channel, NY1.
Although an executive first, Lucas is poised to become a leader — and warrior — in the gay community the likes of which hasn’t been seen in some time.
“As for the long term, I like my life and I my only goal is to be happy, and I just want to continue producing great films.”