Adult Entertainment Expo feels the slump

You know it’s a bad economy when the adult industry is experiencing shrinkage.

At the Adult Entertainment Expo, the annual confab that runs concurrently with the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, there were fewer exhibitors, fewer fans and a lot less glitz.

According to a rep for Adult Video News, which runs the show, the exhibitor count was down about 18% from last year. Attendance by fans — who are admitted on some days of the show, with the rest open to industry pros only — wasn’t set to be tallied until after the event was finished, but is likely down as well.

Though meetings were still being taken, parties thrown and the annual AVN Awards taking place over the weekend, there wasn’t too much energy on the show floor, with most booths significantly toned down and even muted.

Given conditions, organizers seemed glad simply to have the participation of industry heavyweights like Vivid Video, Wicked Pictures, Digital Playground and Hustler.

Joy King, VP of special projects at Wicked, estimated that adult entertainment revenue was down more than 20% last year, which has led to slumping profits, layoffs and even Hustler topper Larry Flynt’s recent, semi-satirical request for a federal bailout.

“Usually we’re recession proof,” she explained. “In my 24 years in the industry, this is the first time I’ve really seen us being affected.”

While the industry still makes significant amounts of money from digital distribution — much more than mainstream media — King noted that the amount of free porn online is likely hurting the biz as fans look to cut back on spending.

The adult industry has always been on the cutting edge of tech, but there was little in the way of hot new gadgets on display for fans. One outfit did showcase the same technology that was red hot over at CES, though: It displayed a porno in 3-D.

There was even a whiff of desperation as some adult film companies used the show, which is mainly a place for companies to promote their products and stars, to do what’s not allowed: sell DVDs. Their solution was to “give away” adult DVDs with T-shirts, calendars and hats on sale — for between $20 and $40.

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