The economics of adult entertainment

I have a close friend who has a close relative who’s just gone into the porn world as an actor (he’s a straight male but the porn is both gay and straight- he tops, so there’s that “I’m not gay” dichotomy). Anyway, the discussions we’ve been having on the subject have me wondering about the economics.

Does anybody know what the average film costs to make? (I’m talking mainly of the amateur variety- no script or story, just people making the beast with between 2 and 15 backs.)

Can/do adult film studios borrow money from mainstream banks? (I’d think it’s safer than many other investments- to quote Trekkie Monster, “In volatile market, only stable investment is porn”.)

Do most stars get a percent of the profits? For that matter, do most films make significant enough profits to give points?

On streaming video sites- usually pay per minute- do the film studios get paid whenever their film is watched or or are they paid a flat fee up front and the only real benefit to popularity being that they can charge more for the rights to their next film?

I know in the gay porn world many, perhaps most, of the big stars (no anatomical reference intended) make more for their escort services than film work (which is more like advertisement). Is this true in straight porn?

Thanks for any answers. This has always been a source of curiosity (not for career as there’s not a big market for HENRY VIII porn, but just as a matter of wondering how it works).

My understanding is that there are no points or royalties in the adult film business. Pretty much everything is run on a cash-for-product exchange. The preformers are paid a flat fee at the time the movie is made and they never see another dime, regardless of how widely the film is distributed or how much money it makes. (This is why you’ll see the smarter performers becoming their own producers.) The producers obviously get some profit off the film but it’s mostly based on upfront sales - they’ll sell the video, then recut the sex scenes and sell a compilation tape, then sell the cable broadcast rights, then sell the scenes to internet porn sites, etc. They sell the product for a flat rate and don’t make any deals concerning how many future viewings there are.

And they don’t get paid very much at that. The going rate around here for a “fresh face” is around $300-500. Not bad for about an hour or two’s work, but you won’t get rich doing it.

I wonder what percentage of adult films make money. OT1H they’re cheap to produce (at least compared to actual films- no script and nobody greatly cares if you a cameraman’s shadow [or a cameraman] in the background) and have a near universal marketplace with the Internet and porn shops and home market, but OTOH competition is pretty [del]stif[/del]fierce and there’s distribution costs and a lot of fear of using underaged performers (while I doubt there are many who would worry ethically whether the actor was 16 or 18 the fines and possible jailtime would worry them- I wonder if they have insurance policies to pay their legal fees in case somehow an underager with fake ID gets in), so I can definitely see how even just paying a few thousand dollars you could fail to recoup the costs.

I wonder if legalized sex workers and or adult film stars have any kind of union, or group health plan.

I do recall reading or seeing a statement that for most porn actresses, the films were really just an advertising, and the serious money came from doing strip clubs. Some, such as Stephanie Swift, would also put in some time at the Nevada Brothels.

Occasionally you’ll see a woman who can bust out (snerk) into big money on her own in porn, such as Jenna Jameson, but that is a rarity.

Plus for ever Ron Jeremy (straight) or Brent Corrigan (gay) there’s a thousand whose names never get known, so their fees would never really go up and I would think the lifespan of an adult film career would be really brief.

Something I’ve wondered about is Dink Flamingo (no idea of his real name), a successful gay porn producer whose genre is military guys. He’s used several active duty (the name of his company in fact) military as well as ex-military as performers and I know for a fact that some guys got into serious trouble when they were caught (worksafe Wiki link). Would Dink be breaking any laws for employing them while on active duty since he knows it’s against military law for them to be engaged in porn, or do military laws have no bearing at all on him as a civilian?

IANAL, but Dink isn’t commiting a crime, but the performers are. Sodomy is still a felony under the UCMJ. did an article on the economics of porn about a year ago that covers some of these issues.

I don’t know what you’re getting paid. But I’d consider $150 an hour, which is the low end figure you mentioned, good money.

The point is that it’s extremely sporadic and unpredictable. You can’t expect to be doing a shoot every weekend - not even one a month. If you’re really popular, you might get three or four gigs a year. To warp his meaning slightly, PT Barnum aptly said “there’s a sucker born every minute” - there’s a lot of people hoping to get into the business.

If you think you’ll be the next Ron Jeremy, forget it. Most studios are all about churning through the fresh meat - not coincidentally, first- or second-timers get paid a lot less than “veteran” performers.

Gay porn pays between $300 - $500 a scene and it usually takes two days or less to film a scene.

The big deal for the gay porn actors I’ve known say there is a huge access to drugs, usually free or at a discount. How they make their big money is escorting. Being a gay porn star can turn at $150/hr escort into a $1,000/hr escort. Plus it can get you into places like raves, or even mainstream celebrities and CEOS who will pay to fly you out, for private services.

So it’s not the porn where you make money, it’s the exposure of porn

Do we really need any new porn anymore? Is there anything still left unfilmed?

If I could afford it, I’d pay. Or do you mean the company pays me?

I’ve heard the opposite. That the producers have a hard time keeping people in the business. I’ve read that once an actress gets a reputation for being a reliable performer, she can pretty much get all the work she wants. Three or four gigs a year is way too low. Ginger Lynn, for example, made her first adult film in December 1983 and “retired” in February 1986 and she made sixty-nine seperate films in this twenty-six month period.

I’ve heard the same thing is true for female porn stars working at strip clubs as “feature dancers”.

Quoth Sampiro:

I’ve heard of an organization called COYOTE (Cast Off Your Old Tired Ethics) which serves as a union of sorts for prostitutes, but they don’t seem to have any web presence, so it’s possible they’re now defunct.

Ginger Lynn was a superstar. A mainstream movie star can make $20 million per picture. The average SAG member makes $5000 a year.

Which one of these numbers better represents the typical person entering porn?

My old roomate was a gay porn star. He still does it. Google “Cam Kurtz” if you’re into a really skinny dude with a massive schlong. His standard going rate was something on the order of $1500-2500 for each movie he made, and they always paid to fly him out to Vegas or Hollywood to shoot his movies, and put him up in a place to stay.

Pretty sweet gig.

Gotpasswords said a theoretical “really popular” porn star might make three or four movies a year. So I provided an example of how many movies an actual “really popular” porn star made in a year.

I find that figure hard to buy. The biggest gay porn stars like Erik Rhodes are complaining about getting $500/scene, in a two scene movie that’s $1,000 for him.

Now I could easily see him making $2,500 for escorting services. Dancing, sex, parties or all night companion. That is probably where he’s making the money. Cam Kurtz doesn’t even have name value.