Netflx announced a big deal Thursday that, following the success of its critically lauded series House of Cards and Orange is the New Black, certainly seems strange. The streaming powerhouse has struck an exclusive agreement with comedian Adam Sandler to produce the star’s next four movies.
The news is even more jarring in the wake of Netflix’s announcement earlier this week that the company will distribute its first original movie, a sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, simultaneously to theaters and to streaming devices next year. That project seemed to fit with a strategy to challenge HBO as the top purveyor of “quality” adult-centric entertainment. In other words, not Adam Sandler.
Sandler, despite occasional forays into serious acting, is probably the actor most associated with low-brow entertainment in modern pop culture. Even his comment regarding the deal sounds like a joke made by a 12-year-old. “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,” he said. “Let the streaming begin!”
Despite the seemingly strange bedfellows, this arrangement could easily be a win-win for both parties, and could be the beginning of a new type of arrangement for stars and content producers going forward.
From Sandler’s point of view, it’s a chance at revitalizing a career that has begun to stall. Despite still ranking in the middle of the top 100 Hollywood stars (in terms of salary), Sandler has bombed fairly spectacularly with his recent string of movies. Jack and Jill was almost universally panned as the worst movie of 2011, and his latest release, Men, Women, & Children, in which Sandler takes another stab at serious acting, has already been labeled a flop before it even premieres.
Additionally, at 48, Sandler’s angry man-child persona has taken on a sour and slightly unsettling quality that has left audiences cold.
The option to produce four films for Netflix allows Sandler to work with lowered expectations, but without the perceived ego blow that “dropping to TV” would represent. He’s a pioneer, not a has-been. (Though Sandler would be well advised to look at the career impact of television on formerly fading stars such as Matthew McConaughey and Kevin Spacey).
For its part, Netflix gets a bankable star with major global name recognition to topline its initial forays into filmmaking. Though Sandler’s recent films have flopped at the box office, they have still been very popular on Netflix. Audiences may be unwilling to put up with the cost and hassle of seeing his films in the theater, but they are still happy to watch them in the living room. That makes this deal a real threat to movie theater chains, which until recent years could count on Sandler to pack multiplex seats.
Additionally, by expanding its viewer base beyond the chardonnay-sippers looking for tasteful entertainment, Netflix opens itself up to a whole other demographic — one that’s already actively looking for online entertainment. The unwashed masses may not have the same cultural clout, but at a certain point Netflix needs to expand its viewer base if it wants to take on the established powers.
They may make an unlikely couple, but Netflix and Sandler may just be a fairytale romance.
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