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Some porn production moves to Las Vegas after Los Angeles condom law goes into effect

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. - Lee Roy Myers has everything you'd expect to find in the nation's porn capital in Southern California: sets of a classroom, hospital room, locker room and a bedroom, as well as a list of porn stars waiting to perform.

But his plywood universe is not in the San Fernando Valley. It's a few paces away from the glittery casinos of the Las Vegas Strip.

"Las Vegas is a fresh town, and it's where people need the business," said Myers, whose new studio is part of a boom in X-rated production in Sin City sparked by a Los Angeles law requiring male actors to wear condoms.

The rule and potential opportunities in Nevada were the talk of the Adult Entertainment Expo this week. The annual sex industry trade show culminates Saturday with an awards ceremony for adult films.

"It's not really an option to change the way we make our movies, and moving production isn't that hard," said porn purveyor Jules Jordan, who hid out behind nearly naked models at his booth.

The voter-approved Los Angeles regulation survived a constitutional challenge, but other lawsuits are ongoing, and the industry is still waiting for the first big prophylactic bust.

The number of permits requested to make porn films in Los Angeles County has declined by an estimated 95 per cent since the law took effect, according to Film LA, a private non-profit that issues the licenses. The number of applications fell from about 480 in 2012 to just 24 through the first nine months of 2013.

For Myers, who co-owns Mission Control studios and also directs web films, the condom police are just the start of his troubles with Los Angeles. The region had also gotten too expensive for him.

With DVD sales continuing to plummet, the bounce provided by the mommy-porn series "Fifty Shades of Grey" wearing off, and no solid business model in sight, producers in this notoriously low-budget industry are looking for new ways to cut costs.

While Los Angeles requires health checks and charges hundreds of dollars for location permits, Clark County, where Las Vegas is located, does not require health permits and gives out location licenses for a nominal fee.

The warehouses are cheaper, and it's also more affordable to rent out mansions and put actors up in hotels. The hardest part, Myers said, is making sure the stars leave at the end of the shoot.

Myers has also found that Las Vegas, a town already suffused with commercialized sex, is less squeamish about his line of work.

"They're used to it here because they already kind of have it," he said, sitting among rows of desks in his studio's classroom set. "Figuring out how to make these things more cheaply won't include shooting in Los Angeles."

Before he moved in, the building was just another empty warehouse on blighted Industrial Road behind the town's tourist corridor. Local officials appear content with the arrangement and have no plans to pass additional rules.

"It's a legalized industry and properly regulated, so I don't see it as a problem," said Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani. "I think the city and the county will benefit from any expansion of the film industry. It's economic diversification."

Las Vegas is home to some major porn players, including Brazzers, Bait & Tackle, Corbin Fisher, VCX Ltd. and newcomer Bluebird Film.

Several producers with top porn purveyor Evil Angel are talking about moving to Las Vegas, according to owner John Stagliano, and enough porn actors have settled down in the area to supply all the extras a film could need, if not all the stars.

Derek Hay, owner of adult talent agency LA Direct Models, opened an office here last fall. He estimates that 20 per cent of the industry will have moved to Las Vegas by the end of the year.

Some contrarians believe the boom will eventually lead Clark County to adopt the same regulations that are scaring the industry in Los Angeles. This September, the group that championed the 2012 condom law started a similar campaign in Florida.

For now, concerns about an eventual condom showdown in the desert are not stopping producers from making investments.

Myers has several producers coming through his studio this week. After that, he will turn his attention to repurposing the cave set featured in a high fantasy spoof "Game of Bones" for another pornographic parody, based on The Hobbit.

The star of both films, James Deen, a millennial porn icon who acted alongside Lindsay Lohan in "The Canyons," said moving the industry to Las Vegas is just a Band-Aid.

"The issue with running to Vegas is it doesn't actually fix anything," he said, taking refuge near a stairwell at the convention hall to avoid interruption by a constant stream of fans. "We should explain to the people who put that law in place why it's unnecessary, and appeal it the same way any community would appeal any asinine law."

___

Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier

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