ENTERTAINMENT
Popcorn & porn

Can you believe people still rent porn — from video stores?

Let's just say that some folks like to ... stick with what works.


It's tough to imagine people still rent movies at brick-and-mortar stores. But old habits die hard.

What's more surprising than a video store still existing in 2017? A video store having an entire room dedicated to adult movies in 2017.

There are about 1,200 adult titles available for rent (or purchase) at the Family Video store in Whitehall. Among them are "Unfaithful Wives," "Vegas Swingers" and "Raunchy Roommates."

And it does brisk business, too. Adult movies account for about 20 percent of sales at the Family Video in Whitehall, says Mike Denk, the store's manager.

"When I first was hired and found out we had that, I was quite surprised in how much money we made from those," says Denk, who has worked at the store for three years.

The most popular genres? Denk says "girl-on-girl" and role-playing in taboo situations, such as relationships with in-laws, are in high demand.

At a Family Video in New Brighton, adult movies are also a strong draw, associate Krista Lewchenko admits. "Almost every other person who comes in the door definitely rents those movies," she says.

What gives? There's plenty of porn online for free. So, who's still leaving the house to rent skin flicks?

"The customer base is an older base …. Older adults over 50. They don't have a computer, they don't like the Internet (or) they don't like technology. It's quite a few of them," Denk says.

It defies logic — and the trends. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu pretty much put the nail in the coffin in most video rental stores years ago. Blockbuster, at one time the nation's largest movie rental chain, filed for bankruptcy in 2010, six years after it operated 9,000 locations in the United States.

Last year, subscription streaming sales of all entertainment genres surpassed DVD sales for the first time, $6.2 billion compared to $5.4 billion, according to the Digital Entertainment Group, a trade organization.

There are few brick-and-mortar stores that rent general movies and even fewer that rent adult films.

The largest chain of video rental stores in the United States, Family Video has 750 stores in the United States and Canada, including 14 within 50 miles of Pittsburgh.

The chain's stores rent and sell the naughty flicks, but they are shelved in back rooms (often behind very squeaky saloon doors) separate from the other moviees. Perusers must be at least 18 years old to enter the adult-movie section.

Family Video's corporate office did not return calls or emails for comment.

Not all Family Video stores sell or rent adult movies — some are in towns whose ordinances prohibit the sale of the material.

"That also affects some people, too," Denk says. "We have some that drive like 20 minutes just to check out what we have."

There are many reasons why consumers still visit brick-and-mortar stores for purchases and rentals of taboo material.

Renting flicks at a brick-and-mortar store allows people to take their time browsing casually to find what they like, Lewchenko says. "I would say that for the regular movies, as well. That's why people come in."

Other reasons are related to privacy, says Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals, a sociologist and author of "Exposure: A Sociologist Explores, Sex, Society, and Adult Entertainment."

For instance, the purchaser might not have access to a private computer, she says. "This would be especially relevant if families were sharing computers and/or smart devices."

Also, "a person may feel strongly about supporting local businesses or doing their part to combat Internet piracy. And there's also just plain preference — many people still enjoy the form of DVD," she adds.

Though unfettered access to piracy-based porn has reshaped it as a product not worth paying for, "the tendency for consumers to view pirated content has done nothing to shift the taboo of watching porn," she says.

The popularity that Family Video is experiencing with adult movies is more difficult to come by for other retailers.

Adultmart, a Cleveland-based chain that sells adult toys and movies, has six stores in the Pittsburgh area. Local employees referred media inquiries to the corporate office, which did not return calls or emails for comment.

But a clerk (who didn't want to be named) at Star Flicks, an Adultmart-owned store that rents a variety of movie types, including adult and family movies, says business is difficult. The store is on McKnight Road in Ross next door to an Adultmart.

"It's a tough business today. Nobody wants to rent anymore," the clerk says.

Ever wonder what the craziest and funniest porn titles are? Check these out.

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