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The Average Salary in the Adult Film Industry

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Actors and actresses in the adult film industry are typically paid between $400 and $1,000 per day. The California Department of Industrial Relations notes that a few performers are paid as employees -- with taxes and benefits deducted from a check. But most receive no health insurance and do not receive a share of revenues. Performers also aren't represented by the Screen Actors Guild.

Annual Salary

According to, performers in the industry earn an annual base pay of between $24,600 and $55,000. Bonuses ranged from $900 to $9,000. Total compensation ranged from $30,000 to $77,000 in the survey.


Performers in the industry may exchange bodily fluids. The prevalence of sexually transmitted diseases is relatively high. Corita R Grudzen and Peter R Kerndt, authors of "The Adult Film Industry: Time to Regulate?" note that condom use is low in adult films, and performers have contracted HIV on the job.


Men are generally paid less than women, and most women in the industry do just one film, according to Peter R. Kerndt, MD, MPH, author of Public Health Issues in the Adult Film Industry. Overall, adult films in California are an estimated $13 billion industry.


About 6,000 people in all are employed in the industry in California, including performers. It is unclear how their pay compares to salaries in mainstream film because evidence from reputable sources is difficult to obtain. But the industry has relatively low margins. Equipment for each film runs about $10,000 -- though it can be used over again. Production costs, which includes paying performers, is about $13,000 to $16,000 per film. A successful film will sell about 1,500 to 2,000 units at $8 to $13 each to film distributors, according to Kerndt.


Philadelphia-based freelancer Pat Kelley has been writing since 2002, most recently for Scripps Texas Newspapers. He has won numerous awards for reporting. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science.

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