Steven Morowitz was born for SKINema. He's the second-generation owner of DistribPix, the legendary distributor that's been credited with creating the adult industry “one pubic hair at a time”.
DistribPix was created in 1965 and thrived by providing the grindhouses of Times Square with sexploitation fare like Michael and Roberta Findlay's Satan's Bed (1965) and Joe Sarno's The Bed and How to Make It! (1966). Bit by bit, these films pushed the limits of what could be shown on screen until adult films as we know them first came into being in the late 60's. It was then that DistribPix blossomed into a production company that produced many of the classics of the "Golden Age" of porn from directors like Bill Lustig, Chuck Vincent, Carter Stevens, Shaun Costello, Danny Stone, and The Amero Brothers. And when VHS came along, DistribPix was once again at the forefront of this SKINematic revolution, distributing films from their massive catalog for the home video market.
But the decline of the VHS market also caused a decline in DistribPix's business, and by the early 2000s the company had essentially gone dormant. That's when Steven stepped in and made it his mission to restore and re-release these historically important films in deluxe special editions that put them in their "proper historical context" (i.e.,come packed with cool commentary and illuminating extras). DistribPix is the company behind the restoration of Naked Came the Stranger (1975) released earlier this year (see HD pics and clips here at Mr. Skin), as well as the HD restoration of The Opening of Misty Beethoven we told you about earlier this week on the Mr. Skin blog.
We talked to Steven at home in New York City, where he told us about growing up in Times Square, some of the gems of the DistribPix catalog, and their Kickstarter campaign to bring Misty to Blu-ray.
SKIN CENTRAL: Your dad co-founded DistribPix, right? When did you take over?
STEVEN MOROWITZ: Yes, started the company around 1965 in New York [and] within a few years, it had become a major production and distribution house for exploitation and sexploitation films made in New York, for the theaters of New York. Throughout the 70’s, Distribpix cemented its place in the annals of erotic film history...pushing the censors a bit farther with every release. Distribpix was showing X-rated films in theaters and distributing them years before Linda Lovelace was a household name...For about another decade, the company was one of the main adult distribution houses in the world, [but] soon after VHS began to die out, the company began to phase out most of its films. The archive sat mothballed.
In approximately 2003, we began to bring [Distribpix'] films to DVD with no other agenda than to get them onto DVD. That is when I began to get heavily involved in the business. But it did take several years for me to properly learn the business and [it was] a few years ago, around 2009, when I began to take film restoration more seriously. Since then, I have tried to immerse myself in preserving this archive, the history and the legacy.
SC: Were you exposed to DistribPix's films growing up…like, hanging out on 42nd Street?
SM: I grew up around the business. I was always looked after, but not over-protected. As a matter of fact, my older brother and I would often hang out in the projection booth of the theaters on 49th st. and we both held part time jobs in Times Square, doing video related tasks for the company, during the summer.
When I was about 7 years old, I first met Seka. I didn't really know who she was, but soon after I found out. I remember sitting oh her lap, and her telling my father that I was a handsome little guy! The rest is history. [laughs] But, yes I did grow up around Times Square, and probably got to see many things that most 7, 8, 9-year-olds never experience. It was awesome. And I have decades worth of memories. I remember hanging out at the old VXP headquarters and watching them duplicate 100 VHS at a time. It was wild. They had racks of VCRs as far as the eyes can see! I also remember going to the Adult Film Association awards as a youngster.
SC: What, to you, are the most crucial films and filmmakers in the DistribPix catalog?
SM: Honestly [that's] a very tough question for anyone that cares for archival film. Right now, our main focus has been on the "Henry Paris" Films (the X-rated cinema of Radley Metzger- The Private Afternoons of Pamela Mann, Naked Came The Stranger, The Opening of Misty Beethoven, Barbara Broadcast and Maraschino Cherry). They have gotten the most hardcore treatment as far as restoration and extras go, and they are selling very well for me.
But the guys and gals involved in our company over the years are like a who’s-who of adult film making legends. Joe Sarno and Ron Sullivan (aka Henri Pachard) got their starts with Distribpix, and those guys went on to direct what some film historians say are the most perfect examples of art house/sexploitation style films. We also have films from the likes of Bill Lustig, Chuck Vincent, Carter Stevens, Shaun Costello, Danny Stone, The Amero Brothers, and many, many others. Some of the most important films in the archive are cult classics like Armand Weston’s Take Off and Jonas Middleton’s Through The Looking Glass. Other great sellers are Felicia, directed By Max Pecas, and The Erotic Adventures of Lolita, directed by none other than Leon Gucci (aka Leonard Kirtman).
SC: Are there any actresses (mainstream or adult) that you're especially fond of?
SM: Sure, when it comes to adult cinema I have so many favorites, but I would say that I've become [most] fond of Veronica Hart, Georgina Spelvin, and Kelly Nichols as far as their films are concerned. I have gotten to know Seka, Annie Sprinkle and Gloria Leonard on a personal level as well.
SC: Would you consider producing films under the DistribPix name, like in the old days?
SM: I'm not really making porn or interested in making porn, that's the truth. I think our mission has changed and I feel that it is an even more important direction than what [we] had originally planned as a startup in 2002. The goal was to make money, but the video market has been decimated by online piracy in the form of tubes and torrents and the once booming adult video market has essentially become a wasteland. And those of us that are still around can feel it. [So] one has to think outside of the box, and in some cases totally change strategy.
Thankfully for me (and this huge archive!), I've surrounded myself with the best experts around- film historians, film archivists, colorists, film labs, editors, and I have opened myself up to learn from every one of them. So besides having the best team around to work on these projects, I also have the best teachers, and they are helping me take my game to a new level. So our mission is one of restoration, preservation, and historical accuracy. We want to fix these amazing films, preserve the images on them, and get them [out into] the world so generations to come can see these films how they were meant to be seen.
We also have many print publications in the works. We have one of the rarest vintage collections of photo material like slides, contacts, sell sheets, posters, and original art that we want to make available to collectors. In a perfect world, we would have a 3000 square foot museum for all to enjoy, so books are the next best thing...if [they're] done right.
SC: I know you're working on a deluxe restoration of The Opening of Misty Beethoven with Process Blue. How's that going?
SM: It is going great, really well. [It's] the best project I have ever worked on. I think I have seen the film about 50 times this past month! I am very fortunate in the fact that the guys who run Process Blue have been doing 2k scans for me for 2 years, give or take. [Before that] I would ship my stuff all over the country. The fact that Process Blue has opened its doors in Bridgeport [CT] just 2 and a half hours' drive from my film archive, is amazing. They did the scans of all of the film material for this upcoming release- both the hard and soft cut of the film, the trailer, and hours of never-before-seen outtakes. Actually, the transfers went so well, we shot a restoration feature at the lab and it will be on our upcoming release as an extra.
And since the demand is very high, we have officially launched a Kickstarter campaign to help bring Misty to Blu Ray, please help us! [We've got] some amazing rewards in return!
SC: What other restorations do you have coming up?
SM: [Our] future projects include Barbara Broadcast, SOS,Through the Looking Glass, Roommates, Take Off, and a Billy Bagg (Bill Lustig's X-rated films) double feature. Several DistribPix films are being restored right now, and we are in the works of trying to negotiate with a distributor for these sexploitation classics.
Thanks, Steven, for filling us in on DistribPix's amazing work! You can check out their entire (and very impressive) catalog over at the Distribpix site, and you can do your bit to bring Misty Beethoven to Blu-ray by contribution to their Kickstarter campaign!
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