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Executive Seat: Richard Arnold — Purely Professional

George Hanson
Who do you call when you want to take your already successful adult franchise to the next level? Who has the brains, the brawn and the right names in the Rolodex to give you global reach for exploiting existing opportunities, not to mention creating new ones?

If you’re Peter North, you call Richard Arnold at Pure Play Media. Arnold’s Toronto-based firm began representing the veteran performer’s Northpole Enterprises in adult broadcast and DVD channels in March of this year. The new partnership exploded off the starting line with Northpole’s all-HD “HumpHer 2 BumpHer” series, shot exclusively in limousines, as well as “Peter North’s POV Vol. 23” and “Deep Throat This Vol. 42.”

Pure Play Media has offices and operations in Toronto, Montreal and Chatsworth. Arnold, CEO and cofounder, oversees things from his Ontario HQ, where XBIZ caught up with him on a typically busy late-June afternoon.

XBIZ: What’s the history of Pure Play Media?
ARNOLD: I entered the video distribution business in Canada back in 1986, working for a guy distributing mainstream B movies. When he had financial issues I started my first company with three people. I’d buy closeouts and resell them, which meant VHS tapes back then.

XBIZ: So you started mainstream and went to adult?
ARNOLD: Along with the other stuff we began distributing some adult, but it really took off in 1991 when the rules changed for adult material in Canada. Prior to that it was only soft stuff, but [that year] it became a little looser, letting us do X or XX movies. The whole adult market opened up, but we learned very quickly that to succeed in Canada we couldn’t rely on one product line, there are too few people. In a country bigger than the U.S. we have a population a tenth of the U.S.. We figured out that, to do a good job, we had to rep noncompeting lines.

XBIZ: The Pure Play Media name has been connected with Private forever, it seems.
ARNOLD: Early on I was distributing for Private. In fact, we started with film no.10 of theirs, real early. We developed a good relationship, so in 1999 they approached me after they went public and said, “We don’t like our U.S. distribution. Can you go to California and open an office for us?” I first thought it would be too much work, but we talked more and I decided to do it. I worked like crazy, negotiated deals, and staffed the office — it was a great learning experience. We stuck with Private for a couple of years. We both had ideas to expand, but different ideas, so in 2002 we split.

XBIZ: This led to the “new, improved” Pure Play Media, right?
ARNOLD: It was 2003 when we got the new model going, and the first deals were with Michael Ninn, Score and Seymour Butts — a real strong start. Over time we added and subtracted lines, always sticking to the model. It’s tougher to do now, but we are very discerning about who we rep. Sure, I’ve turned down a few deals I’ve kicked myself over, but the model works and we stay true to the people we represent. It’s all about relationships.

XBIZ: Times are tough. How are you managing?
ARNOLD: The sad part about the business today is there is not a massive amount of good news. But we’re battling through.

XBIZ: How many people can pack themselves into a bandwagon before it breaks an axle? We’re talking parodies here.
ARNOLD: If you do them well, like anything else they’ll work. Jeff Mullen (president of parody leaders Sitcums.com and X-Play) has got a great formula, but it’s not a mystery and it’s the same for every genre — commitment to quality and hard work. The folks that will be in this business in a year or two are the ones who do good original content.

XBIZ: Yanks and Canucks — are we that different, really?
ARNOLD: Canadians and Americans are very similar. We eat just as shitty as you, we’re a little more liberal, and maybe it’s a stroke of luck but we didn’t get nailed as bad in this recession. The key difference in doing business in Canada is that we have government-run approval agencies for all movies. It’s a pain in the butt and expensive, but at the end of the day I don’t have to worry about legal liability.

XBIZ: You sound just like any other business person. Business is business, right?
ARNOLD: It all comes down to hard work. You cannot work in this industry now if you don’t know that. If you want to make a quick buck, you’re done before you start. John Stagliano, Jules Jordan, Steve Hirsch — all the successful guys are out there putting in long, long hours. I’m keeping things going on all fronts, being available to people and working hard, too. It’s not as daunting as it used to be, but there’s always a lot of hard work to be done.

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