Q&A With Exile's Howard Levine, 'Dean of Distribution'
LOS ANGELES — If the adult industry ever designates an official dean of sales and distribution the august title would no doubt fall to Howard Levine.
The veteran sales pro has nearly three decades of experience under his belt with major companies including giants Vivid Entertainment and Pulse Distribution, and has even tried his hand at directing with the film “Super Porn.”
Although it seems like his brainchild, Exile Distribution is one of the new kids on the block, the company has been in business since 2011 and has racked up major distribution deals with a number of niche-driven companies like Forbidden Fruits and more recently Severe Sex, while expanding its roster to include gay and lesbian titles among others.
The company also released its own title,” My Mom is a Whore” in 2013.
Levine gave XBIZ the scoop on his latest coup, an eight-picture deal with Rebecca Lord Productions, so we thought it was high time to catch up with the often acerbic but always candid Levine and pick his brain as to the state of Exile and what we can expect from the man who describes himself as “much less of an asshole than he was 10 years ago.”
XBIZ: 2014 was a busy year for Exile what with added studios and distribution deals. To what do you attribute the upswing?
Levine: It is a matter of getting established and getting the word out that we represent only top studios. With the success of Forbidden Fruits and AMKingdom, Manipulative Media, Severe Sex and Cutiepies followed. Hot Mess and Pornstar Empire have been top selling studios for me for the last three years, so the attraction is I have had long-term distribution deals that have been successful. I am very picky about what I distribute, producers know that. That is why I am lucky and very grateful to have signed Standard Digital with the Original Taboo titles.
XBIZ: Forbidden Fruits apparently has hit at a time when incest-themed porn is hot. Was this deliberate or simply good timing?
Levine: Well Forbidden Fruits was the first company to come out with new taboo, the rest followed. Devil’s was making taboo related content for a while, but nothing like Forbidden makes. It was very good timing, the rest of the people who copied us was deliberate. Which is to some degree irritating, once something sells the porn industry likes to beat it to death. Case in point, parodies. You would think coming up with an original idea in this business is some kind of affliction
XBIZ: You've recently took issue with a Cosmopolitan report that said mainstream films and TV may be fueling incest-themed porn. Can you explain?
Levine: Incest-themed porn has been around for a very long time. The most popular was, and still sells very well today, is the Kirdy Stevens "Taboo" series. That was shot in the early 1980’s. I firmly believe it is the other way around. What we do seems to fuel what Hollywood does. They are always looking to go where they haven’t gone before. Films like “Lolita” and “Candy,” haven’t been done in a very long time by Hollywood. They were shocking at the time. Very little is shocking anymore, so here is a great theme that will shock you, especially middle America, not so much southern, rural states, but mid- America.
XBIZ: Is Forbidden Films planning new titles or themes? If so what are they?
Levine: Forbidden has always been diversified. They have made lesbian titles; they have made straight boy girl titles in addition to the taboo titles. They have also done very well with real swinger titles and manipulation. They are forever coming up with stuff that is very edgy. I expect them to keep that evolution going. They have relocated in recent months to be more centralized instead of east coast, so we will be seeing some great new stars in their productions. They are very good at picking girls before they hit it, like Carter Cruise, Kennedy Leigh, Callie Calypso and Desi Dalton. They make stars.
XBIZ: You’re adding a variety of niches to you portfolio – lesbian, gay, BDSM, etc. — more to come?
Levine: I try to find the best production company for that niche. Manhole Media was a no brainer for me; it is great gay content that I can offer at a really good price. I may be taking on another gay company soon as Manhole has been very successful for us. Severe Sex is the real deal, so I will not compete with that line by bringing on another one. I do have two more companies lined up that are going to absolutely kill. I will let the cat out of the bag right now on one of them and give you the exclusive. I just signed a deal with the incredible Rebecca Lord and her company, oddly named Rebecca Lord Productions for an eight-movie deal. These are extremely high-end productions that are shot so well, in exotic locations with very hardcore sex, everyone will love them. You can check out the trailer here [Ed. note: the cast includes: Anissa Kate, Gina Gerson, Tiffany Doll, Kari, Carla Cox. Lutro, Rico Simmons, Neeo and Peter Figis]. The other company I have to wait on before I can announce it.
XBIZ: Is Exile aiming to corner the taboo marketplace?
Levine: No, I am not looking to corner any market except the movies that sell well market. It takes a very good eye to know what will fly and what will crash and burn. I have had a couple of crash and burns, but more that have flown. That is the key.
XBIZ: What new niches are you seeking if any?
Levine: I am going for a submissive slut niche next. So all you companies out there can start shooting it now.
XBIZ: Are you looking for porn parodies like “Selma” from Hot Mess?
Levine: "Selma" and "12 Inches a Slave" were not parodies; they are throwbacks to the 1980’s when you just did a very cool, funny title with a great box. The content had to be good, but it had nothing to do with the title.
XBIZ: Is the hard goods DVD market still shrinking, constant or growing in your estimation?
Levine: If you have good product the market is constant. It isn’t going away for a while. We did better this last year than we did the year before. That’s where being picky comes into play.
XBIZ: Have you expanded your staff? If so, how many people?
Levine: We did just hire the great Wendy Nitz and Regina Septo. Exile is very much like Vivid was in the beginning. A mom and pop company.
XBIZ: Are you expanding your new website to include streaming?
Levine: I do streaming now but it goes thru DVD Empire.
XBIZ: What can we expect from Exile in the near future?
Levine: Exile is at a point where I am very happy. The future holds maintaining a high standard of quality and customer service. I always say thank you for every order I receive, and I mean it. If there is ever a problem we resolve it that instant. Thankfully there have been very little problems.
I am much less of an asshole than I was 10 years ago, still an asshole, but much less of one. I am grateful to this industry and especially my customers, many who are good friends. Without them, there is no Exile. So a big shout out to all of you who support me and make this happen every day. I thank you from the bottom of my heart, and Mrs. Levine thanks you too.