Helmed by industry veteran Dion Giarrusso and his industry newbie half-brother David Joseph, Red Light released one title per week and had more than 50 under its belt by the end of its first year. Giarrusso was in charge of establishing the Red Light brand, using the contacts he made as general manager of Elegant Angel to begin an aggressive marketing campaign with mass mailings and phone calls. Joseph was the brain on the business end and with performer-director Vince Vouyer in charge of video production, the company took off.
"I believe it was the highest quality product at the time," Joseph said. "Right out of the gate we knew we definitely wanted to strive to try and have the best quality, and that was always the idea."
Armed with fresh talent, production skills and quality equipment, Red Light regularly produced new content featuring hot new performers, bright lighting and sets that defied traditional gonzo-style locations, opting for Porn Valley McMansions rather than seedy hotel rooms.
"I think that was all part of the concept and I think that's why it worked," Joseph said.
Inspired by the business tactics of gonzo studios Anabolic, Diabolic and Elegant Angel, Red Light assembled a cadre of top-notch directors including Michael Stefano, John Strong and Mark Wood.
"We offered a similar deal [to Evil Angel's] where [directors] could be producers and own their product and basically put the Red Light District logo on it," Joseph said. Joseph said each director puts his own twist on the content he shoots — Stefano is artistic and prefers girls with more experience in front of the camera, which allows for more authentically hardcore sex. Strong,
Joseph said, likes double and anal penetration with younger girls.
"It's his thing," Joseph said. "He's very technically sound, a great director."
Red Light also stayed true to its word, consistently producing quality content that the consumer could trust to be hot, hardcore and visually pleasing. Everything the box-cover featured — the cover girl, the title, the description — was in the movie, and viewers knew they would never be cheated when buying a Red Light title.
Then one fateful night in 2004, professional socialite Paris Hilton spread her legs for then-boyfriend Rick Salomon on camera, and after much legal trouble between him and the Hilton family, Salomon distributed the tape himself.
Joseph contacted Salomon, and said the two hit it off quickly.
"I think when we met each other, we got along," Joseph said. "We thought the same; his idea of a deal was pretty much what I thought a deal should be. He told me he had the rights, I believed him, and we moved forward."
Entitled "1 Night in Paris," the tape was a hot seller in 2005, and even won AVN awards for Best Selling Title of the Year, Best Renting Title of the Year and Best Overall Marketing Campaign — Individual Project.
"We were doing really well, people started to recognize us, and as soon as we did the Paris Hilton tape, it definitely catapulted us to a whole different level, a household name," Joseph said. "I can assure you it's one of the best-selling adult movies of all time."
After the Hilton tape, Red Light became the go-to company for celebrity sex tapes and the owners of a sex tape featuring WWE wrestler Joanie Laurer, aka Chyna Doll, who contacted Joseph and so did the owners of the Dustin Diamond "Screeched" tape. Now Red Light shares the celebrity sex tape spotlight with Vivid, which released the "Kim Kardashian Superstar" tape in March.
As Joseph and Giarrusso were building the Red Light name, Stefano and adult performer Jewel De'Nyle approached him with the idea to start another company with the same values and reputation for quality gonzo — and Platinum X was born, with directors Manuel Ferrara, Steve Holmes and Brandon Iron manning the cameras.
"We wanted to come out with more movies but not dilute the Red Light District brand," Joseph said. "And we wanted to have more directors that we thought at the time would be valuable to have. It's very similar content; another way to get more product out there."
And with Platinum X came Amateur District and the Candy Shop, a gonzo company helmed by Stefano that specializes in interracial content. Joseph said Red Light keeps up with the times and trends in the industry, and follows suit with niche-appropriate content that he knows will appeal to the current market.
"Early on it was a lot of the young teen stuff," Joseph said. "Of course the interracial stuff was always big, so we went through that, and now the MILF stuff is pretty big. So we just sort of go with the times and we also know we set trends of the times."
Another trend Joseph quickly picked up on was declining DVD sales and a jump in online video-on-demand popularity. Once famous for its simultaneous DVD/VHS releases, Joseph is now making plans to resurrect the marketing technique to match market demand and soon will make his titles available both in stores and on the recently launched ClubRed Light.com.
Red Light's DVD packaging featuring a see-through window displaying its red disc and its often-copied box-cover styling featuring one natural-breasted girl shot by a professional photographer, was an intentional way to make the company's product stand out on shelves which, in recent years, have become crowded with low-quality, no-name gonzo titles.
"When we started," Joseph said, "there were maybe 100 companies doing porn. Now I think 300 or over 400 companies are doing it, making porn for DVD, and then people are pricing all over the board — some sell cheap, some sell a little higher than others."
Joseph said the cheap, low-quality porn is taking its toll on overall DVD sales, and all he can do about it is continue releasing the kind of gonzo his customers expect. Its quality alone, with help from with clear, recognizable packaging, is what will protect Red Light's retail sales the most.
And now that Red Light no longer handles its own distribution — the company struck an exclusive deal with Pulse Distribution in May — Joseph has more time to focus on marketing and bringing his company into the future.
"I think there will be a time in the near future when we'll probably stop DVDs," Joseph said. "I think everyone will. [Consumers] will burn all the stuff from the Internet, and eventually all porn warehouses in Chatsworth, [Calif.,] are going to go away and everybody's going to become surfers."
How soon this may happen is debatable, Joseph said, but at the rate it's moving now, he's staying on top of things and preparing for it by utilizing all media outlets.
"I mean, if you don't have a broadcast deal or a members site, and you're not doing good on VOD, you're not going to last," Joseph said. "There's no way you can."
Red Light's next foray into current trends is the purchase of several high-definition cameras and a decision to release titles on Blu-ray or HD DVD. Joseph said he's not sure how much clearer porn needs to be, but it's the direction porn is going, and Red Light is, too.
"I have mixed feelings about HD," Joseph said. "Are we going to see more imperfections now than we would before? Are we going to see more pimples on a girl that we wouldn't want to see before? It might be too perfect. We're just starting to shoot in HD, and we'll work on it and evolve, and make it as perfect as possible."
And that, Joseph said, is what Red Light is doing — keeping up with market trends, responding to customer demand and smoothing out the bumps in the road as the company moves forward.