opinion

Retro Porn

Stephen Ochs
Classic adult is making a comeback.

In a market seemingly saturated with new product, a small but growing niche of nostalgia hounds and new fans are turning back the adult film clock and playing flicks from the 1970s and 1980s like "Deep Throat" and "A Scent of Heather" on DVD, as well as streaming antique video and pictures over the Internet.

X-rated "golden age" films are lavish, plot-driven and, maybe most importantly, likely to be free from 2257 prosecution.

With the fallout from 2257 enforcement yet to happen, many feel that releasing, streaming and selling older adult content is the safest course to follow within the industry.

"They've made [2257 compliance] so vague and ambiguous; basically no one is going to be compliant," Steve Morowitz, owner of Video-X-Pics, told XBiz. "But nobody is going to be hounding down your back if you're carrying our product. It's very safe. It was all produced before 1995, so even if they try to prosecute everyone, we're going to be at the bottom of the list of people they'll go after."

Morowitz's production company licenses older adult titles like "Inside Little Oral Annie" and "Wanda Whips Wall Street" for release on DVD and the Internet. Video-X-Pics was started in 1965 by Morowitz's father and has been releasing classic films on DVD and VHS for the past three years.

2257-Exempt
"Right after the whole 2257 thing started blowing up in the end of June, we started seeing stuff on the Internet saying '2257 exempt.' It was a huge push for us," Morowitz said.

"2257 exemption definitely makes the product more valuable," agreed Paul Interlandi, whose company, Arrow Productions, owns the rights to seminal X-rated films "Deep Throat" and "Candy Striper" among many others. "You don't have to worry about being a secondary producer, so it's a lot safer for you to sell or distribute."

2257-friendly or not, content that doesn't appeal to consumers isn't going to make anyone rich. Fans of retro-adult are convinced that the product itself accounts for some of the recent uptick in sales. "People are attracted to older porn because it actually has stories," Interlandi said. "It's more erotic, as opposed to today's porn, which is made mostly to shock."

Hester Nash, the webmistress for RetroRaunch.com, a website featuring more than 40,000 adult photos produced between 1860 and 1960, reports that her subscribers are drawn to both the content and the styling of the shots on her site.

"I think people love the black-and-white photography. It's not as in-your-face. It's not as tacky as a lot of modern, color porn can be. It seems less lurid," Nash said. "We're the ultimate amateur site: Real-looking women of all shapes, sizes and colors. It's honest. There's also the novelty. People are like, 'Wow! They had porn back in the old days?'"

Vintage porn from the old days is being presented in very modern packaging, however. Some retro companies are on the edge of newest technology, while still remaining true to their older fans that never got past VHS.

"We're making a lot of money on DVD and VHS, and in a couple years, we'll make a lot of money on HDTV. After that, we'll adapt to whatever's next on the horizon," Morowitz said. "First and foremost, it's shot on 35 millimeter film, and that says a lot. The only way you're going to transfer to high definition in the future is to be on a film format."

Interlandi says Arrow productions has spent more than $50,000 to restore the vintage adult title "Deep Throat" for a theatrical release to accompany "Inside Deep Throat," a mainstream, widely released documentary about the impact of the 1970s classic. "A lot of people that are in the porn-watching age, between 18-35, weren't really old enough to witness it in a theater, so people want to know what the big deal is," he said.

Morowitz's Video-X-Pics reports putting quality first as well. "The main difference between us and our competitors is a lot of their collections have deteriorated over time, but our stuff is really superior as far as the quality of the product. We transfer from film," he said.

When it comes to the web, Retro Raunch's Nash believes that fans of older porn respond not just to the photos her site offers but to her unique, user-friendly design as well. In order to be successful, Nash believes sites featuring retro content need a different feel than standard adult sites.

Advertising or not, there is a finite amount of older porn out there to satisfy voracious fans of the niche. To fill the gap, Nash has discovered a way of producing new "old" content.

"Our partner in Europe recently launched Martha's Girls (MarthasGirls.com), which is modern photography of modern women who have been made up so it appears to be vintage photography." Nash said. "Even after they set it up, they have an extraordinary Photoshop artist who takes it to the next degree to make it look old. Some people just want to know that the woman they're looking at is still alive and still looks like that, but they like the old styling."

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