You might think of Adam Sandler as a comedian or an actor, but above everything else, he's a businessman. Sandler and his team of managers, agents, and creative advisors are experts at making money. It should come as no surprise that today The New York Times revealed Sandler's deal with Netflix to produce and star in four movies available exclusively on the video-streaming service. This deal is the work of a talented businessman — even if it doesn't look it at first.
On the surface, Sandler doesn't appear to benefit from this deal as much as Netflix. The majority of the actor's films in the past decade have surpassed $100 million in ticket sales, making back their $40 million to $80 million budgets and plenty more. And he remains one of the most popular celebrities on the planet. His latest film, Blended, flopped domestically, but made over $80 million in international sales. He will bring global attention to Netflix and its streaming service.
Sandler doesn't appear to benefit from this deal as much as Netflix
Then there's Sandler's other avenue of income: branding. Sandler's films have become commercials threaded together via a thin plot. Literally, his films often include commercials inside of the film, like the Subway ad in Happy Gilmore and the Dunkin Donuts commercial in Jack and Jill. Little Nicky is shameless in its placement of Popeye's chicken, while Grown Ups includes a KFC gag. And nearly every film is financially protected by a thin membrane of Sony product placement.
Sandler's 2011 film Just Go With It had over 50 different product placements, including spoken digs at Apple, Sony's electronic rival. "There's so much product placement in something like Blended," wrote the Sioux City Journal, "[Sandler] doesn't really need to worry about ticket sales."
This is all to say that Sandler doesn't need Netflix in the sense that he can still fill theaters, and make additional profits. In fact, a deal with Netflix limits the number of additional income streams for Sandler's films. On a traditional film release, the actor / producer's contract would allot him a percentage of the ticket, video, and download sales, none of which tie into a deal that limits the film's viewership to Netflix's monthly subscribers.
So why is Adam Sandler, who has little trouble making lots of money off the traditional Hollywood system, who is an adept businessman, partnering with Netflix? Because it's easy.
As actor and producer, Sandler should make at minimum $20 million per film
Under the deal, Sandler removes the burden of risk. Netflix will solely fund the films, taking full responsibility for providing investment — and securing additional investment — off Sandler's Happy Madison Productions. Though Netflix will be the sole financier, the films will still have their $40 million to $80 million budgets. Sandler's payments are a large chunk of his films' budgets. He reportedly receives $15 million and over per film as an actor, and can make an additional $5 million as the producer, which explains how Grown Ups 2, a comedy with a handful of special effects, reportedly cost $80 million. On top of all that cash, it's likely Sandler and his production company will make an additional, undisclosed lump sum of money simply by signing the deal. Netflix decline to provide comment to The New York Times on the specifics of the agreement.
Sandler will no longer have to fret over the possibility of a film tanking. Released exclusively on the streaming service, Sandler won't have to worry about whether his films achieve the viewership of the occasional flop, like Jack and Jill or That's My Boy, the latter of which only made $57 million dollars, far below its reported $70 million budget. Netflix is notoriously guarded about the viewership of its exclusive programming.
A single Sandler film can have over 50 different product placements
Plus, Netflix is known for rewarding its partners tremendous creative control, but Sandler, who again is a businessman above anything else, could use that creative freedom to include all the product placements he and his production see fit. This deal provides Sandler an incredible financial advantage without the critical and financial pains of the Hollywood system.
The Netflix deal could remove any remaining barriers in the Happy Madison Productions process, guaranteeing Sandler four films with minimal expectations and plenty of money. Why would Adam Sandler take this deal? Because now the process of producing Sandler movies can be as lazy as the process of making them.
And why would Netflix partner with Sandler? The company plans to spend $3 billion on content for its service in the next year, presumably to take on Hollywood. And what's more Hollywood than a four-year deal with a critically trashed, financially beloved megacelebrity whose provided statement to the paper of record is, "When these fine people came to me with an offer to make four movies for them, I immediately said yes for one reason and one reason only ... Netflix rhymes with Wet Chicks. Let the streaming begin!"
I assume Sandler's referring to the the money flowing into his bank account.