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Subtle Sexuality

5 Jul, 2003 By: Dan Bennett

Twenty years ago, when pretty people ran on the beach, somebody taped the event and then released it in slow motion. That was erotica video.

There was hard-core erotic video available, of course, but for people who wanted something soft and lightly sexual, options were limited.

Today you can get your pretty-people-on-the-beach thrills watching “Baywatch” reruns. The erotica video industry -- meaning sensual titles that don't cross the line into that “other world” of adult video -- use all sorts of modern creative maneuvers to sell.

Playboy Home Video, the granddaddy of the category, continues to branch out into multiple subgenres. It was more than a year ago when the supplier launched three distinct video lines: Playboy Classic, Playboy TV and Playboy Exposed. The options continue to expand.

“Since we launched those lines, we've become even more diverse,” said Scott Barton, director of marketing for Playboy Home Video. “We want to cover the gamut as far as erotica. The demographic has expanded.”

Playboy blends music with erotica in such titles as Playboy Exposed: Hip Hop Studio Girl. Playboy Exposed: Hard Hat Honeys represents one of the supplier's classic theme videos, focusing on girls in a particular profession as their clothes come off. Playboy: Girls of Reality TV and Playboy: More Sexy Girls Next Door, meanwhile, showcase the supplier's savvy in taking advantage of the reality-TV craze that seems to be here to stay in the pop-culture landscape.

“The themes we design are reflective of what is going on in the world,” Barton said. “These gonzo sort of exhibitions are very hot, and what we're trying to do is bring the Playboy taste and sophistication to that approach while also staying no-frills and fun.”

Playboy also is planning to release boxed sets of its historic “Wet N Wild” series.

“This is a series that goes back a decade but still has a big following,” Barton said. “We're adding to it and making it as appealing as possible. We have such a vast warehouse of classic product that can be fine-tuned and marketed again for a new consumer, while also appealing again to the consumer who has been with us for years.”

The supplier's couples-only line is going strong, with a planned massage release for the holidays.

“We like the idea of a mix of traditional titles, along with titles that will appeal to a young demographic of college-age kids,” Barton said. “Those titles have the rough-cut editing, the bouncing camera. We really do have a wide range of consumers.”

The expansion of Playboy Home Video arrives at a time when the entire company is relaunching its image for a new era, and synergy between the different Playboy enterprises is in full swing.

“Playboy was the first magazine to have its own TV network,” Barton said. “At the same time, home video was born. So the process of creating product in various media has been with us for a long time. We think very much about synergy.”

Modern sophistication is on the minds of executives at Peach DVD. The company was founded earlier this year by former creative minds at Vivid Interactive and emphasizes interactivity and a more sensual side.

“The biggest complaint we had heard from erotic-market consumers is that the girl wasn't on screen for enough time,” said Peach DVD president Jim Monroe. “They want to see the girl.”

Peach DVD also adds special features that allow viewers to get closer than ever to the star.

“We came up with a voyeur cam, because it has a hint of naughtiness,” Monroe said. “The viewer needs to feel like the girls are accessible.”

Peach releases its Jenna Jameson titles to great interest, starring one of the erotic industry's favorite celebrities.

“Having Jenna really helps, because she's a great actress and doesn't get enough credit for that,” Monroe said. “We do things like allow the user to offer one of the girls in the title a ride, but you never know how it's going to turn out. Maybe she's nice, maybe she carjacks the vehicle. We wanted to do things differently, move beyond the T&A thing. Our titles give you tons of freedom.”

The supplier has been pleased with retail support.

“We made a lot of friends throughout our years with Vivid,” Monroe said. “In this genre, the retailers look at every frame, because they need to know it's suitable for their stores. A large portion of our production plans come from feedback we get from retail buyers.”

BCI Eclipse takes advantage of erotica's multipackage possibilities by offering titles in sets.

“BCI Eclipse has an extensive line of erotica programming, all of it mall-friendly content,” said company president Greg Glass. “No full frontal nudity, just good, clean, nude fun, very much in the Playboy style.”

Retail has been supportive, Glass said, with the company's product carried by such big retail chains as Musicland and its Suncoast Motion Picture Co. subsidiary, Wherehouse, and Tower Records and Video.

Musicland, he added, is BCI's “largest customer for erotica content.”

The erotica format also lends itself to action, mystery and suspense. Wildfire Pictures Sept. 2 releases Solid Cover, the story of an undercover cop charged with tracking down a killer. The title stars former Miss Canada and Playboy cover girl Danielle House.

“Danielle is notorious in Canada for losing her Miss Canada crown because she was involved in a bar fight in Newfoundland,” said Kalman Szegvary, the film's producer. “She saw her boyfriend with another girl and decided to punch her out. This made the headlines, and she lost her crown and then made the cover of Playboy with a pair of boxing gloves on. I contacted her agent, who didn't want her to do a low-budget film. She read the script and eventually fired her manager and did my film.”

Szegvary himself even makes a cameo.

“During the opening sequence, actress Holly Ho, a Penthouse star who appears fully nude in the shower, would not trust anyone else around her with a knife but myself, so I had to put the stocking over my head and play the killer in the opening scene,” Szegvary said.

Story is important to making a creditable erotic thriller, he said.

“We concentrated on a good story, which is why Solid Cover is interesting to watch,” he said. “The story uses three genres -- erotic, action and thriller -- which makes it a genre twister.”

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