Concern, anger and, in some cases, panic have surfaced in the home video industry in the wake of the Attorney General's Commission on Pornography report released Wednesday. The report, which links hard-core pornography with sex crimes, recommends a crackdown on the porn industry.
With one exception, home video outlets were not singled out for action in the report. The commission recommended that Congress pass laws requiring "producers, retailers, or distributors of sexually explicit visual depictions to maintain records containing consent forms and proof of performers' ages."
Home video outlet owners fear that they could become targets of community groups. According to various estimates, the sale and rental of X-rated videos is responsible for 20%-25% of the home-video business.
Since the Meese commission report has been interpreted by some as a call to action for those offended by adult videocassettes, manufacturers, distributors and video stores are concerned that local communities might take action against any video stores that carry X-rated videocassettes.
A distributor of adult videocassettes, who asked not to be identified, complained: "This Meese thing is bound to scare away some of our customers (video retailers). For a lot of stores, this is a small part of their business. They don't want to risk getting picketed or having the cops raid their store. So what are they going to do? They'll drop them all together. This may cut my business in half or maybe worse than that."
Adult video executive Harold Farber regards the Meese commission report as ominous for the adult-home-video industry. "It's insane," he said. "I visualize the whole thing in cartoon form. I see a couple in the privacy of their home trying to watch an adult movie and the members of the Meese commission in the bedroom looking over their shoulder."
The general feeling in the adult home-video industry is that the impact of the report will be felt primarily by video stores in small communities. Washington, D.C., attorney Jeffrey Cunard, an expert on legal issues relating to home video, agreed to some extent: "If I owned a video store in certain areas I'd be really scared. It might not be so bad in places like West Hollywood or Beverly Hills, but in small communities like La Mirada and Whittier or more conservative places like Orange County, there might be a real problem. You can't generalize and say it's more of problem in small communities but small communities are more likely to cause a problem for video retailers."
Video stores in communities that have hard-line district attorneys, crusading religious groups and politicians would be more likely be have problems, he added.
"A lot of stores will probably stop carrying these cassettes," Cunard predicted. "I hope they don't but they probably will. If the store is being picketed, the owner will probably cave in and do what these people want. You can't really blame him."
Some video store owners may put adult cassettes in a special section open only to interested adults.
"I plan to continue carrying adult cassettes but they should properly be in a section where people who don't want to see them don't have to see them," said Meir Hed, co-owner of Videotheque stores in Westwood and Beverly Hills.
"They're not in a separate section yet in my stores, but I'm going to put them there soon. They're really a small part of my business, but they should be available for people who want them."
In an informal survey of several home video stores around the country, The Times found that of the stores surveyed, one didn't carry adult videocassettes, but that most others did. Two store owners questioned said they already kept adult cassettes in a special section and would continue to carry them. Three owners, all in small communities in the Midwest and South, said they would discontinue carrying adult cassettes.
"I do decent business with them," said a store owner in the Chicago area, who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "I'd like to keep them in stock but it's not worth the hassle. If this thing blows over I might change my mind. But I don't think it's going to blow over."