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Seven Reasons Why the Netflix/Adam Sandler Deal Is a Gamechanger

Seven Reasons Why the Netflix/Adam Sandler Deal Is a Gamechanger

Netflix’s recent announcement that it would premiere “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon 2” in a deal with The Weinstein Company–with or without any domestic theater play–was a significant advance for the non-theatrical film distribution model. The next step was clearly for Netflix to step into the studio role of producing and presenting not only original TV series but exclusive movies. Now the company is forging ahead with a more groundbreaking deal to finance and release four Adam Sandler movies from Happy Madison Productions.  He can deliver them while he fulfills his current obligations. 

Why is this a bigger deal?

1. This is a production, not acquisition deal.

Netflix, as it has done with its series “House of Cards” and “Orange Is the New Black,” is making its deal directly with a content producer. These feature films will be made for Netflix, shown exclusively on their site for subscribers in all 50 countries in which they operate. These are movies made for and by Netflix, to be available free, exclusively, to anyone who is a monthly subscriber to the company. It appears if one wants to see them, Netflix will be the sole choice.

2. The deal is with a major star

Adam Sandler may not be one of the most respected or honored actors of our time, but until recently–he’s been enduring a dip in box office of late–he has been one of the most successful. He has starred in 13 live-action films that have grossed over $100 million (unadjusted) over the last 20 years including “Grown Ups 2” in 2013. He shifted into indie gear with Toronto-premiered films from Jason Reitman (“Men, Women & Children” and Tom McCarthy (“The Cobbler”), neither of which was well-received. Though Sandler might not be at the height of his draw, he remains an A-lister, especially on Netflix, where his films are among their most sought out. 

3. It  gives Sandler more freedom

Netflix execs are smart, but they skip the layers of decision-makers and greenlighters and numbers crunchers that dictate big-budget Hollywood formula moviemaking that is designed to be risk-free and deliver returns on the tens of millions of marketing costs in the U.S. alone, as well as branded titles that will perform on opening weekend. Netflix films will likely cost less all around which will give Sandler and Happy Madison the opportunity to get more creative. Escaping from the studio content mills –as the likes of Steven Soderbergh and David Fincher are doing on Netflix and cable television–could be the biggest draw to other filmmakers to move from the traditional studio model.

4. It makes Neflix a legitimate player in feature production

Much more than the “Crouching” deal, this forces studios to face a nimble new competitor, gives agents an alternate venue for their clients, and starts to change Netflix from being perceived as something that is minor-league or second-tier. It’s tough to find the first big star/producer/director to commit. It’s much easier after someone else has taken the lead. This isn’t going to be the last such deal, and expect more announcements soon.

5. It takes theaters out of the equation

Harvey Weinstein needs theaters, and will continue to need theaters for most or nearly all of his films. The “Crouching” deal made a feint towards wanting traditional (at least IMAX theaters) involved. Netflix is saying to theaters: “You aren’t part of this plan, and we have one of your top draws.” Sandler has theatrical productions lined-up through traditional distributors, and theaters will happily play them (just as they will play Weinstein’s non-Netflix films). They need all the content they can get. 

6. It could change the rules for movie criticism and awards

The Happy Madison/Sandler films aren’t likely awards contenders in any case. His comedies are not review driven. But newspapers, magazine and other media used to covering movies on their release in theaters may need to start adjusting (the old model followed by the New York and Los Angeles Times involves reviewing 25-30 movies a week without touching those that are solely on VOD or other streaming venues). The moment a Netflix film is reviewed by movie critics in their movie sections, that will change the perception of their legitimacy. And as more acclaimed directors test this model, eligibility for Oscars and other film awards — which is impossible now without initial theatrical play — may need to adapt. And if this happens, the all-important prestige of getting prime theater play and later wider audience appeal that sets apart exhibition will diminish.

7. Netflix elevates itself above previous home formats

By backing films from an A-list star for their exclusive use, Netflix has elevated itself above video, DVDs and Video on Demand as a legitimate, rather than default or least-bad option for films with top level talent in them. No one supplies a movie for VOD without first checking out theatrical distribution interest, much less name stars, and to this day VOD-playing films do better if they have some theatrical exposure, as was the case in past decades with other home viewing options. For the first time since the invention of the made-for-TV movie 50 years ago, a new option for top-flight feature films with leading directors and stars is becoming legitimate.

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Alan S

Most movies are made to be seen on the big screen. Gravity lost all of its visual wonder by seeing it on the TV. Dumb comedies like Neighbours or Sandler movies don’t make a difference. Most people don’t have the luxury of buying expensive TV’s and surround sound etc to make the most of watching dvd’s or netflix. I don’t think movie theatres are going anywhere anytime soon.

Dixon Steele

Curious to see who gets the good stuff from Happy Madison, Sony or Netflix?


Adam Sandler and Happy Madison movies are absolutely terrible and are just cash in pocket for him and his buddies. We don’t need to ever see Kevin James in a movie again, or Adam Sandler dressed as a woman. He hasn’t done anything good since Happy Gilmore, and grossing $100mill from 13 movies over 20 years for an "A lister" is a joke, those numbers are as terrible as his movies


If A listers want to start making TV movies, be my guest. But the Academy and other arbitrators of culture should ignore them.

Frank D

@nobigdeal. Exactly right. Everyone’s agog about this. It’s not a "game changer." Netflix has scored very well content-wise with the episodic series, but their feature film content is limited to the dumbest of the dumb. (Yeah, try finding Kurosawa on there). Remember the days of straight-to-video fare. Same here. Sandler is spiraling into irrelevancy. Expect more former A-listers to jump onto this. In short, it’s economy of scale. Search Netflix, see Sandler, click on it.
Crouching Tiger 2? Who are kidding? The Weinsteins should be happy they’re not on board that one.


"Sandler and Happy Madison the opportunity to get more creative." This is perhaps funnier than any movie Adam Sandler has made in the 21st Century. Maybe Nick Swardson will make the next Withnail & I under this deal? Or perhaps we’ll get Citizen Kane Jr? Or maybe we’ll get more of the same old schlock that Good ol’ lazy Adam Sandler will shuffle his way through with his posse of pathetic urchins.


Movie theaters with their overpriced popcorn and soda their 20 dollars movie ticket, just to see a hyped and over-budget crap topped with visual effects sauce on screen. I will not miss any of that. Movie theaters are a dead form of entertainment, like the side show circus of the 19th century.


I think if theater chains want to send a message, they should all boycott Weinstein films. Then the industry will really change. And unlike with the Emmy’s, the AMPAAS will not include nontheatrical films in its categories. So exhibitors are safe there.


8. People will now have the luxury of ignoring Sandler’s films from the comfort of their own homes.


First…Sandler will continue to put films in theaters with major studios. Second…he will take a few crap scripts(he has plenty) and produce them for Netflix. Third…theaters and studios are flooded with films by proven directors and actors in every genre…In summary…nothing to see here.


F**k Netflix men, people need theaters. No one needs to adapt to that. I agree with @MDL


I’m pretty sure Netflix nor filmmakers will allow commercials. In face commercials have never been part of Netflix. If they started to do that they would lose credibility and customers.

The real issue is how this will hurt movie theatres. Movie theatres employee a lot of people. And in the bigger cities movie theatres still do very well. This kind of plan seems directed at killing movie theatres. Do we want that? This is a lose lose for theatres.


What will be hell, is if A-list movie premieres begin to be shown by tv presenters who insist upon commercial breaks

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