Twilight of the Hustler studio

Not the Bradys XXX 2 might be the last adult movie filmed in Hustler’s warehouse and studio in Canoga Park, a building used for office space and filming for the past 15 years, and which had an in-house stage crew that built sets for dozens of Barely Legals, Hustler cover shoots, and hundreds of movies.

Larry Flynt Publications, parent of Hustler, made the decision to sell the property late last year. Prior to this, when Vivid shifted its distribution from Hustler to Pulse (freeing up warehouse space), and when the few remaining sales staff and office workers were relocated to the LFP “dark tower” over the hill in Los Angeles, the 20,000 sq. ft. facility was still being used as a distribution warehouse and production center.

Now the Osborne Street building on the market for $3.8 million. Built in 1979, LFP purchased the building in December, 1993, well in advance of the DVD era. When LFP bought Russ Hampshire’s VCA Pictures a decade later, it assumed some of its staff and all of its catalogue. At that time, Hustler and VCA’s warehouse was still chock full of bulkier VHS boxes.

According to L.A. County records, LFP made about $700,000 worth of improvements to the building, and the structure and lot it stands on have been assessed at nearly $1.8 million.

Since LFP’s decision to sell the building, however, both California’s commercial and residential real estate markets have slid, and the building stands unused most of the time.

Kenny DeMartines, who has been Hustler’s set designer for 25 years (and who supplied several of the pictures in this story) has spent the last few months as part of a two-person cleanup crew, getting the building ready for its eventual sale. But when producer Jefff Mullen was looking for a place to film the sequel to last year’s Not the Bradys XXX, most of which had been shot in the same location, DeMartines rebuilt the set and added some flourishes.

“They weren’t using the building,” Mullen said. “That’s a lot of money they’re spending in other locations that they could save.”

Clearly LFP believed the building would sell a lot sooner and that it would no longer have to pay the maintenance fees on such a large property. Vivid, Digital Playground, Red Light District, Wicked, and Adam & Eve rarely shoot movies or scenes on their own properties, instead choosing to rent space across Porn Valley and Los Angeles like their smaller competitors. Only Hustler had an in-house location and set builder.

The Not the Bradys XXX 2 shoot contained several DeMartines sets, including the (Not the) Bradys’ back yard and several bedrooms. Once the building is cleaned out, DeMartines will be out of a job.

“I have worked with a Who’s Who of adult directors from (late Barely Legal director) Clive McLean to Jerry T (Jerome Tanner), and even Ron Sullivan (aka Henri Pachard), John Bowen (aka John T Bone), and Greg Dark back in the old days of the 1980s,” DeMartines said. “I make things look the way people want them to look.”

For those of you with an extra $3.8 million (sources say the price might come down), the building boasts the following amenities:

Racked warehouse space, ceiling heights between 13′ and 17′, 800 amp, 3 phase 4 wire delta power and 120/240 volt circuit, controlled parking area, fenced, three 13′ roll-up doors, woodshop and painting area with ventilation, five restrooms, washer/dryer hookups, carpeted and sunny reception area and several offices set offf from studio, woodshop, and warehouse spaces.

“In a time when everyone is under increasing budgetary constraints, we were actually able to save a lot of money over the years,” said DeMartines, “because we had a lot of our own materials already in stock that other companies would need to go out and buy each time they shot.”

On the set of Not the Bradys XXX 2, veteran performer Mike Horner (he shot his first adult movie in January, 1978), who plays Mike (Not the) Brady, said that the Old Ways Are Changing.

“I got into the business with Ron Jeremy, John Leslie, and Jamie Gillis,” he said. “Back when L.A. would be hot for a time and then the police would crack down and we had to go back up to San Francisco. When the state told the L.A. police that breaking up porn sets was infringing on free speech (1993), that’s when the Valley became the porn capital.”

And that was the year LFP bought the warehouse.

Mullen (using the directing alias Will Ryder) posed with Kasey Jordan (Cindi), Aurora Snow (Jan), Teragan Presley (Marcia) and Alana Evans (Carol) holding a copy of adult trade publication AVN. Its cover story was an advertiser-soothing “Big Budget Is Back.” Mullen wanted to recreate the shot with a copy of rival adult publication XBiz, but there wasn’t one available.

In an article in adult retailer trade publication Adult Store Buyer, Vivid co-founder Steve Hirsch acknowledged the precipitous decline of the physical movie. “(In 1984), 95 percent of our sales came from VHS tapes,” he said. Vivid celebrates its 25th anniversary next year. “Last year, less than 30 percent of our sales came from DVDs.”

While many companies make big budget movies (the just-wrapped Pirates 2 cost more than $1 million and standard features like Adam & Eve’s Rollerdollz and Dark City had budgets of $75k to $100k), most major studio porn is produced for $30k for glossier vignette films or five or six scene gonzo movies, in which several or all of the scenes can be shot in one day in several rooms of a Porn Valley McMansion rented for about $1200.

The impending closure of the Hustler studio says only that the the company has made a decision to adapt to the market; an increasingly Internet-driven industry needs fewer people to keep it alive, and less space.

That doesn’t mean the DVD or the feature is going away tomorrow, but the demand is shrinking. People with staying power have to make do with less. Contrary to the AVN article, demand for big budget features has also contracted, even though a well-made high budget porn spectacle still has the novelty to draw consumers.

In addition to Horner, the multigenerational Not the Bradys XXX 2 features veteran performer Lynn LeMay (first adult movie: 1988) as well as Aurora Snow and Teagan Presley, who have bucked traditional porn career expectations by staying active in the business for seven and four years, respectively.

On the set, Horner talked about how he has personally adapted.

“When I started I was a college student,” Mike Horner said. “Now I’m the one playing the Dad roles. Luckily there’s Dad roles … “


Previously: This is how porn guys live; Not the Bradys XXX review
See also: Hustler

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Gram Ponante is America's Beloved Porn Journalist

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