For several years there has been a succession of stories suggesting that the imposing Armory building in the Mission was slowly being relinquished by its owner, BDSM porn concern Kink.com. Three years ago Kink CEO Peter Acworth was threatening to take the company out of San Francisco entirely, renting some office space in Las Vegas ahead of a proposed state law that was passing through the legislature mandating the use of condoms in all porn shoots. But the condoms-in-porn debate aside, the company has apparently been facing bigger obstacles both with the upkeep of their signature headquarters, and with the dwindling market for paid porn content. Talking with the Chronicle this week, Acworth says that all film shoots at the Armory will be ending next month as the company diversifies its interests a bit, and moves to reuse the 200,000-square-foot building for other, revenue-generating ends.
This means that most of those shackles and dildos attached to drills will be leaving the sprawling complex, though Kink says they will be maintaining offices there. The reason, primarily, seems to be that the business can no longer support the huge facility they purchased a decade ago which had been vacant for 30 years, in part because of the many issues, historic and otherwise, with its reuse. Reportedly Kink.com's subscriber base has shrunk by 40 percent in this age of plentiful free porn.
Two years ago, Acworth said that regardless of how the condom bill fight ended that law didn't pass, and a subsequent ballot measure in 2016 also failed the company would still likely transition out of the building in order to convert some of it to office space for rent. Acworth now says he's looking to convert the top two floors to leasable office space, but what stands in the way now is the recently passed Prop X the space is currently zoned as PDR (production, design, and repair), and the newly passed law requires landlords and developers to replace any PDR space they convert. Supervisor Jane Kim is working on an ordinance to exempt historic buildings from Prop X, which Acworth is banking on.
And of course there aren't a lot of companies that want to listen to naked gay wrestling matches and women being penetrated with foreign objects while they're on a conference call.
Then there's the already completed conversion of the former drill court space into a concert and event venue with a 4,000-person capacity something that was first announced a year and a half ago, and won approval nine months ago. That effort has included a whole new floor in the space, soundproofing, lighting, and more, though still to come to bring it up to code is handicap accessibility and in the interior, for those offices, the building still lacks elevators. The place also needs new bathrooms and a new roof, and Acworth puts the potential upgrades at between $13 million and $20 million. As of recently, he secured a $4 million loan from the bank, on the basis of the drill court's potential revenue, to make some initial building repairs, including some crumbling turrets.
But what does this mean for the popular tours of Kink's basement production facility? Airbnb has a big event scheduled in the space next month, and the Chron notes that another company, cloud communications outfit Twilio had an event there last week. But others, like event organizers for the Golden State Warriors, have been turned off after seeing the remnants of Kink's oeuvre around the building like a large portrait of a "hunting guy with his penis out" up on the third floor and have backed out of event plans.
Kink rep Michael Stabile tells SFist, "Tours will continue for the foreseeable future, although [they] could shift in tone. While we might not be producing in the Armory anymore, it's a still an incredibly historic building." You can find those tours here (available twice daily, Tuesday through Sunday, through the months of January and February as of now).*
Further, Acworth adds in an email, "The basement sets etc, are not being dismantled until we can find new uses and users for the space. Until that time, tours will continue. Actually, I hope tours will continue indefinitely but morph to 'behind the scenes of an event space'." But, he has some rightful hesitation there. "I suspect the real reason the tours were so successful was due to the sex, however."
* This post has been corrected to say that tours of the building will continue.