(April 1, 2009) Ypsilanti has been a hotbed for movie shoots and star watching from the burgeoning film industry in Michigan. Things are about to get hotter.
But don’t call it porn, they want to be called the Adult Movie industry.
What ever you call it, it is a $15 billion dollar a year business with the largest players traded on the stock exchange.
In 2004, over 11,000 new adult movie titles were released world wide. Many studios can crank out one or two new films per week.
On Tuesday, while most eyes were focused on the Sidetrack in Depot Town as filming continued on “Betty Anne Waters” starring Hilary Swank and Minnie Driver, a small group of executives from Vivid Entertainment and Larry Flint’s Hustler Video toured the former Ford/Visteon/ACH facility in Ypsilanti.
Agents from the two studios as well as a team from Great Lakes Site Selectors from Columbus, Ohio have been scouting locations in Michigan for a new studio. They are drawn to Michigan and the 42% tax credit for films produced in the state.
The 30+ acre site includes nearly 1 million square of office and warehousing space and includes over 600,000 sf of open bays perfect for sets and sound stages. There is also nearly 200,000 sf of Class A office space.
Warning: Some Web Links in this story connect to adult websites and may not be appropriate for all ages or for the work place.
Automotive Components Holdings (ACH) has the property listed for $7.6 million. Studios execs say they are discussing an all cash purchase.
Given the recent recent problems in the automotive industry, ACH, which is a holding company for Ford Motor Company, is desperately short of cash.
Officials from ACH would not go on the record but privately said the would consider a lower offer if they could close in the next 60 days. “Cash is king,” said one ACH executive.
It is hard to imagine Governor Granholm or the Michigan State Legislature could have predicted movie tax credits would be used to fund X-rated movies, the Michigan Film Office confirmed that adult movies would qualify for the film production credits.
Ypsilanti City Planner S. Murf and City Attorney Klem Barista were studying the city’s zoning rules in detail. Murf said after an initial review, it appears an adult movie studio is a permitted use in the manufacturing M1 district.
This is the first time Hustler and Vivid are discussing working together on a production facility. Because of the fractured nature of the business, there is little chance of scrutiny from the Justice Department on this joint venture.
Attorneys familiar with the deal said, “President Obama has bigger worries on Wall Street and Detroit and is unlikely to be worried about happenings in the Adult movie business.”
Despite what had been reported earlier, the Adult Movie industry is not looking for a government bailout. “It was a publicity stunt and it worked,” said late night huckster Joe Francis from Girls Gone Wild.
It is likely Michigan-based company YpsiTucky LLC would be setup to run the studio and rent space to other porn studios wanting to move production to Michigan.
Site selectors were excited about the location. With so much space, it will be easy to build permanent sets including a jail, dungeon, castle, and beach house that are staples in most adult films. With so much indoor space, the studios can film year round.
Hustler Video is part of the massive adult entertainment empire Larry Flint Productions whose holdings including Hustler magazine and Hustler Hollywood Retail stores
Vivid Entertainment is home to some of the industry’s biggest starlets. Called Vivid Girls, they include Jenna Jameson, Briana Banks, and Lanny Barby, who are among hundreds of women signed to exclusive contracts much like in the bygone days of the Hollywood studio system.
The demographics of Ypsilanti also make sense said Theresa Flynt, VP Licensing and Business Development, Hustler. The industry is dependent on continually finding new stars. Being able to draw from two massive universities, the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University, for new talent is a plus for producers working on a tight schedule.
Paul Fishbein publisher of Adult Video News, the industry’s largest trade magazine, was shocked to learn executives were looking outside of California for new studio space.
The Adult Movie business, including AVN, has for years called California’s San Fernando Valley home of the porn industry. Locals refer to it as Silicone Valley.
Fishbein said, “If Michigan is willing to fork over a 40% (sic) tax credit for every movie, it makes good business sense for adult movie studios to look at Michigan.”
The Mayor of San Fernando, Guy Grabbit, is not happy that Ypsilanti is poaching the Adult movie business from his town.
“Hands off,” Grabbit warned Michigan politicians eager for a piece of the action, “We invented porn and it belongs here in California.”
Grabbit admitted he had no way to match the 42% tax credit as his city, like many others in California, is facing huge budget shortfalls.
Current Ypsilanti mayor Pauli Schwaibler, who works for one of the automotive companies in the region said he hoped ACH could find a better buyer. ACH executives said there hasn’t been a lot of interest in the Ypsilanti property, but they are willing to talk to any buyer the City thinks would be better.
Ann Arbor Spark was asked if they had anything to do with this site selection group visiting Ypsilanti. Spark spokesman Dean D. Milker responded they didn’t know the property was for sale.
The site selection team’s next stop was Water Street. They expect to conclude their tours on Thursday and could make an offer on studio space in the next 30 days.
Reporter Steve Pierce is a retired adult movie actor and fiction writer who today restores old houses and spends time with his dog and three cats.