Birds of a Feather
While fans were quietly enjoying the holiday season, a huge deal with major implications was finalized on Dec. 19 — one that put two of the biggest names in gay porn under one roof. Adult VOD leader AEBN acquired Falcon Studios and announced its decision to merge it with Raging Stallion, forming “the single largest all-male erotic production company in the world.” Next stop, global domination?
“We have been looking at Falcon for some time and nearly came to a merger agreement last year. This fall, Falcon approached us and we began negotiations that culminated in our merger,” says Chris Ward, Raging Stallion’s co-founder, president and frequent director. He notes that everyone from both teams is staying with the new company, and the offices will all be consolidated into Raging Stallion’s Mission Street building in San Francisco. Ward will head up the combined studio, with Falcon’s James Hansen becoming the Chief Financial Officer.
“I’ve worked with Falcon for the past seven years, first as Vice President of Finance and then as President in 2010. Transitioning to the CFO role, responsible for AEBN’s gay adult operations, will be an exciting challenge for me personally. I’m looking forward to 2011,” Hansen says. “Joining the AEBN family is a major step forward for Falcon Studios and a significant milestone in the history of the company. AEBN’s distribution network, along with its technology resources, will ensure that Falcon continues to deliver the highest quality premium gay adult content in the world. With Chris Ward at the helm, the Falcon brand is in excellent hands.”
While Raging Stallion has its own membership site and DVD distribution company, Falcon will continue to operate those channels through Next Door Entertainment and Pulse Distribution. That’s just one of the reasons Ward hopes Falcon fans have faith that the studio’s identity (which also includes the Jocks and Mustang lines) will remain intact — and any fears of it morphing into Raging Stallion Version 2.0 are allayed.
“Falcon is an iconic brand, and my job will be to make sure Falcon movies are true to the brand,” he says. “Falcon movies will keep the same look and feel that they have had in the past — but now with an award-winning production team making the product. It is my intention to raise the bar and produce the finest films possible. If you want to see the future of the Falcon line, I would say my film “Golden Gate,” shot for Naked Sword, is my take on what Falcon should be. “Golden Gate” could easily be a Falcon release. Mustang and Raging Stallion, on the other hand, have a similarity in terms of darker, hairy, muscled men. There is already a huge crossover in terms of customer base. Indeed, Mustang and Raging Stallion are largely the same product.”
Hansen is also quick to calm any fearful Falcon fans: “We’re very fortunate to be able to merge the two production companies with little impact on either of the individual staffs. Both Raging Stallion and Falcon have significant employee talent. The combined staff is very impressive. As far as models, we’ll see some exciting news coming up…fans can expect both studios to maintain their traditional look and feel. Both Falcon and Raging Stallion feature beautiful men, but with very different looks and settings.”
Founded by Chuck Holmes in 1971, Falcon gave birth to the modern gay porn era and business model — and defined different looks through different eras, perhaps the most popular being the smooth, toned and handsome surfer jock in the 1980s.
“The Falcon brand will remain what it has always been — beautiful young men having well-filmed sex. A smooth, sports jock look will dominate, as in the past. I intend to solidify the Falcon line at the top of the porn pyramid. Falcon has always represented the finest in gay erotica, and I intend to do everything I can to keep that position,” Ward says. “Falcon has played a huge role not only in shaping the industry, but also in influencing gay men around the world in terms of style and sex. The ‘Falcon look’ for three decades has represented what is considered attractive to gay men everywhere. Falcon actually shaped gay culture for many, many years. I view this as a great professional responsibility and I take it very seriously. To suddenly have the opportunity to head up Falcon is humbling and a bit scary. I have to do a good job. I have no choice.”
Ward’s vision has helped keep Raging Stallion at the top of pack, with big-budget films piling up awards for three years running (he co-founded the company in 1999 with JD Slater, who retired in 2008). The Falcon merger has bolstered AEBN’s strength in the gay marketplace even more. Ward notes that the VOD giant’s strong commitment to the gay side of the porn industry — and the initial signs of it becoming a major player — started with their acquisition of Naked Sword in early 2007. That was followed a year later by its purchase of Raging Stallion and the Gunzblazing Affiliate Program. While Ward notes that almost all of the feedback and word of mouth from fans and insiders has been good, he has heard a few grumbling voices.
“Whenever a company has great success and grows very large, it’s understandable that our competitors will be wary. To them I say this — there is no cause for alarm. Since Falcon/Raging Stallion is an industry leader, we plan to use our position responsibly not only for our own benefit, but for the benefit of our industry as a whole. I am very open to talking to other studio heads and working together to solve problems facing us all, such as piracy, declines in sales, transition to new formats, etc. AEBN and Naked Sword already have great relationships with most studios via their VOD division, and it is our intention to be on friendly terms with as many studios as possible.”
Ward notes that the directors for Falcon projects will now come from Raging Stallion’s existing in-house stable: himself, Tony Dimarco, Steve Cruz, Brad Austin, Andrew Rosen, Bruno Bond and recent addition Tony Buff. While no new video lines are planned, Ward expects that will change after the physical merger is complete. He notes that they plan to keep the popular Falcon exclusive models — and hope to expand their number. Two major Falcon shoots were scheduled for January and February — the first being a movie about business men in a downtown office, the second a major film event sure to please Falcon diehards: “The Other Side of Aspen 6,” which will continue Falcon’s legendary series (last visited in 2001). The plan is to release 120 films combined for both studios in 2011, half of which will be new productions.
“It’s kind of mind-boggling to think that we grew so large as to be able to take over Falcon. I have to pinch myself every morning. The key to all of this was my own consistent attention to quality,” says Ward. “For me on a personal and professional level, it is both daunting and rewarding. I love porn and I love the porn industry. I was an actor, I am a director, I am an editor and I am a businessman. Heading up the world’s largest and most prestigious porn studio is a dream come true and I am very thankful for the opportunity.”