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Larry Flynt's Latest Hustle

News: Analysis & Commentary: COMEBACKS


His free-speech movie is a dud, but it's selling magazines

Phoenix Pictures and Columbia Pictures could lose millions on the movie. The autobiography is selling slowly, and its publisher, Dove Entertainment, doesn't expect a second printing. But one company is benefiting from all the hubbub over porn mogul Larry Flynt: Flynt's own LFP Inc.

Sales of Hustler are up 10% since September, the company says, with circulation at about 500,000. An LFP magazine bio of Flynt is selling well, too. Bottom line: Flynt's $110 million Beverly Hills publishing business anticipates a $4 million windfall thanks to The People vs. Larry Flynt. "Their sales are responding to the publicity Mr. Flynt has gotten," says Anthony Dibisceglia, director of client services at Curtis Circulation Co., distributor of Hustler and other magazines, who confirms Hustler sales have risen 10% recently.

That has Flynt gloating. "The movie is sort of like $60 million worth of advertising," he says. That, he says, is the tab for making and marketing the film, which, despite critical acclaim, is unlikely to turn a profit, say industry analysts.

For Flynt, the movie has burnished both his reputation and his balance sheet. He's depicted as a First Amendment crusader. For a moment, he even got into Wal-Mart Stores Inc., where music CDs with explicit lyrics and packaging are banned. Through a mix-up by a distributor, at least two Wal-Mart stores carried the magazine bio, which includes risque photos from Hustler. Wal-Mart told all stores to pull the mag after BUSINESS WEEK asked about it. But the mixup is a clear sign of Flynt's celluloid rebirth.By David Leonhardt in New York, with Wendy Zellner in Dallas

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