Risqué business for Hungary's adult film industry
With consumers tightening their belts and widespread DVD piracy, the good times seem to be over for the Hungarian adult film industry.Budapest -- Used to filming naked in below-35-degree temperatures, Hungary's adult entertainment industry, one of the main production centres in Europe, still fears the icy winds of the economic crisis.
"Due to the recession and to the free content available on the Internet, the industry is suffering losses in Hungary and everywhere else," says director and producer Istvan "Kovi" Kovacs, the best-known local figure in the industry.
A bulky man in his fifties, "Kovi" has made over 70 X-rated films and won two AVN Adult Movie Awards, also known as the "Oscars of porn," with his production company LUXx Video, which he started in the 1990s.
But with consumers tightening their belts and widespread DVD piracy, good times seem to be over for the adult film industry, according to the one-time photo journalist.
"Nowadays, Internet users stop at the gates of paid content," says Kovi, sitting in his office in an outer district of Budapest, surrounded by shelves of awards.
He declines to quote the losses his Internet arm has suffered from stingier consumer attitudes, but LUXx Video is due to launch a pay-per-view film service in a month, to attract those who otherwise enjoy pirated DVDs.
In addition to free Internet content, rampant piracy has taken its toll globally, says Michael, a British expatriate who used to work at a publication specialising in the porn film industry.
"Throughout the United States and Europe, porn production has slowed dramatically and this certainly impacted the industry in Budapest," he adds. "Filming is beginning to slowly move to Eastern European countries where girls are willing to do the work for less money."
In his office decorated with glossy posters of scarcely dressed women, Kovi recalls the heyday of the Hungarian adult entertainment industry in the early 2000s, when some 300 movies were filmed every year.
Today, the figure is closer to 100.
"There was not a day when a film would not be shooting somewhere in the country," he says, whether in barns or aristocratic palaces -- or a walk-in freezer complete with frozen meat hanging from iron hooks, used in his award-winning 2002 film The Splendour of Hell.
With so much filming taking place here, many directors and producers -- the most high-profile being the Italian Rocco Siffredi -- bought homes in Budapest, helping to continue the trend.
"Then there were practically no sites left and productions moved to Prague to find new locations," says Kovi.
And they took with them the Hungarian actresses, or "models" as he calls them.
Hungarian performers have a great reputation in the adult entertainment industry for being "beautiful and hardworking," according to the long-time director.
But not everybody is as pessimistic.
"Gabor", a tall, tanned Hungarian in his 30s, who refuses to give his real name and wears a tight black shirt with a large chain around his neck, shrugs off talks of recession and of a flight of capital.
He is the owner of an agency that arranges meetings between "models" and producers, and believes local talent will continue to attract filmmakers.
"Only, they will shoot three days instead of a week," he notes realistically.
Gabor's agency, which claims to be among the top two in Budapest, is currently booming. It has a pool of some 120 models out of what he estimates to be a 300-strong local offer.
"And of course a great advantage of Hungary is that shooting adult films is legal, unlike in say, Romania, which would otherwise be cheaper," he insists.