4.2.2 Channels of Distribution

Part: 
Two
Chapter: 
4

The process of distribution of films is rapidly in the process of becoming history. The photographic motion picture film typically shown in "adults only" theaters is rapidly decreasing in popularity, along with the theaters themselves, as the video tape cassette becomes the dominant mode of presentation of non-still material. Many of these video tapes are sold or rented for home consumption, and many are shown in "peep show" establishments. The effect of this is that the "adults only" theater, in any event an expensive operation, and one that is more visible than many patrons would like, is becoming an increasing rarity. Similar trends are apparent with respect to mainstream motion pictures and the theaters in which they are shown as well, although the effect of video tape on the pornographic film industry is much more dramatic, probably owing in large part to the fact that a night out at the movies remains substantially more socially acceptable in contemporary America than a night out at the peep show.

The films that are shown in "adults only" theaters, or that are shown by use of traditional projection equipment in peep shows, tend to be distributed nationally by use of complex and sophisticated distribution networks concentrating exclusively on highly sexually explicit material. There are exceptions to this generalization and one reason for the attention that focused in the early 1970s on films such as "Deep Throat," "The Devil in Miss Jones," and "Behind the Green Door" was that the standard methods of distribution and exhibition were changed so that films such as these were shown in theaters usually showing more mainstream films. But apart from exceptions such as these, most of the chain of distribution involves producers who deal only in this kind of material, distributors and wholesalers whose entire business is devoted to highly sexually explicit materials, and theaters or peep shows catering exclusively to adults desiring access to very sexually explicit material.

With respect to video tapes, most of the distribution is on a national scale, and most of that national distribution is controlled by a relatively limited number of enterprises. These distributors duplicate in large quantities the tapes they have purchased from producers, and then sell them to wholesalers, frequently with some promotional materials, who in turn sell them to retailers specializing in this type of material, or to more generally oriented video retailers who will include some of this material along with their more mainstream offerings. Based on the evidence provided to us, it appears as if perhaps as many as half of all of the general video retailers in the country include within their offerings at least some material that, by itself, would commonly be conceded to be pornographic.

Magazines are also distributed nationally, and again are likely first to be sold to wholesalers who will then sell to retailers. This process, however, likely culminating in a sale at an "adults only" outlet, does not account for as high a proportion of the total sales as it does for films or video tapes. More so than for films or tapes, many of the magazines are sold by mail, usually as a result of advertisements placed in similar magazines, in pornographic books containing text, and even in more mainstream but sexually oriented publications. There is some indication that the video tape has hurt the pornographic magazine industry as well as the pornographic motion picture industry. The retail prices for such magazines, within the recent past commonly in the range of from ten to twenty-five dollars per magazine, are in some geographical areas likely to be substantially discounted, and adult establishments appear to be offering an increasing percentage of video tapes and a decreasing percentage of books and magazines.