March 06, 2012 03:03pm
AVN Expo Reviewed
Source: Adult Industry News
by: Richard L Moreland
The Chaotic Atmosphere Test, By Rich Moreland
Perspective requires a little time, especially if the issue is about change. Given the passage of several weeks since Vegasís Adult Expo, some thoughts on the eventís new host are due.
Last year the word filtered out that the 2012 AVN (Adult Video News) extravaganza would be different. Rumor had it that the Sands Convention Center was off the board for reasons that were unclear. The Gold Coast was touted as the new locale and the event was moved deeper into January. Because Iím an east coaster, any travel plans must include airfare. For convenience, I do most things as a package. My reservations were made in mid autumn. Everything was cool.
Then out of the blue came the shift to the Hard Rock. Cancel Gold Coast; book somewhere else on other side of the Strip. Less of a problem than expected because AVN was no longer competing with the Consumer Electronics Show for hotel space.
Cool returned and I prepared for the new venue.
Now has come assessment time. Was the newbie host a success? No stats are out that I could find on attendance, I can only relate my "sense" of being there. The Hard Rock "felt" more compact with a variety of scaled down areas used for different functions, but it was far too crowded when the fans arrived. If numbers were lower than last year, the hotel environment minimized that reality.
The two main locations were jammed with attendees and to me that appeared to be a fire hazard. In particular, the theater/stage arena by late week was prohibitively crowded. Eventually, the balcony was opened to relieve the pressure on the floor and turned out to be a welcome haven. Vendors occupied the gallery but had few visitors when I checked them out.
Incidentally, in the upper floors of the hotel some vendors set up shop in their rooms, not unusual for a convention. I have no idea how much business they got but they were remote from the main event.
The theater itself was dark; movement between rows of tables where girls were signing was impassable at times. Aisles were narrow. Fans, reporters, photographers, industry people were literally wedged in so tightly that a real danger was present if an emergency occurred.
The major studios were located in the hotel ballroom. The main access hallway was able to accommodate traffic, but not without some interference. Girls from a local strip club entertained fans, performing to the endless hammer of urban hip hop. (Remember John Leslie and the blues? Why canít there be a small section of the convention that conflates adult film with the blues? Just a suggestion.) The girls worked among each other, some dancing while others distributed the obligatory club flyers to passersby.
I have nothing against exotic dancers; they are friendly, easy on the eyes, and always willing to chat. But in this case their location took up walking space, leaving the attendee to negotiate his way around and through them.
The din of conversation and the omnipresent music reached levels high enough that cell phone use was difficult if one actually wanted to talk rather than text. Finding a quiet spot was not easy.
The Hard Rockís food and drink facilities were a super convenience. Waiting for a table was not. I did some interviewing and business talk over refreshments but missed a couple of opportunities because queuing up for seats was time consuming and tight schedules always loomed large.
And, as one director told me, the cigarette smell was off-putting. It seemed to lie over everyone like a Biblical plague (my metaphor, not his)!
What to make of all this? I am the first to suggest that the concrete and steel sterility of the Sands Center robs the convention of some of its panache. But the venue was conducive for crowds and provided breathable space. Access to and from the Strip hotels was smooth, hallways and stairwells were wide. On the Sands floor, there were no people jams to the degree of the Hard Rock. Signing space for the girls was larger and more open. Something that is not to be minimized as there were a handful of girls whose purses and cell phones were ripped off Thursday afternoon when they were greeting fans.
And I donít recall a cigarette odor at the Sands.
In its totality, the Sands afforded one more plus, the fan could do a quick floor walkthrough for future reference. Mental maps of the kiosks and booths could be instantly stored away.
Iím not down on the Hard Rock. Itís a classy upgrade in its "feel" and "hip" while being cozy. Industry people and fans mixed effortlessly and this may be its greatest asset.
But it didnít pass the chaotic atmosphere test.
What will next year bring? If it is the Hard Rock, then AVN and the hotel powers-that-be need to ameliorate the logistical problems of 2012. Working in a recession weary environment and anticipating a down year in attendance presents issues are that concealed with a smaller space. That being said, the question now becomes how to reconfigure the entire event in such a way as not to discourage future attendance. Fans who are crowd or cigarette averse might pass on next yearís convention.
And we all know that fan dollars grease the porn machine.
By the way, when departing day arrived, I was wedged in once again, this time for a five-hour flight home. My LA compadres also faced a five-hour ride. But they were in cars. Going west had to be more comfortable.