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Netflix Ups Theatrical Snub With Adam Sandler Movie Deal

2 Oct, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Adam Sandler

Days after its window-shattering deal for ‘Crouching Tiger’ sequel, SVOD pioneer snares comedic icon to exclusive pact

Who said Netflix is all about TV shows? The subscription streaming pioneer Oct. 2 announced it has signed veteran movie comic Adam Sandler to star in and produce four feature films that will be made available directly to members in 50 countries at launch.

Under the deal, Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions will co-op with Netflix in the production of the movies. Sandler’s current studio film commitments are not included in the agreement.

Sandler’s films have grossed more than $3 billion globally at the box office and made him one of the top movie stars globally. He is among few actors whose films consistently rank among the most viewed by Netflix members in the United States and across its global territories from Brazil to the United Kingdom.

“People love Adam’s films on Netflix and often watch them again and again. His appeal spans across viewers of all ages — everybody has a favorite movie, everyone has a favorite line — not just in the U.S. but all over the world,” Netflix CCO Ted Sarandos said in a statement.

Sarandos’ affection for Sandler is polar opposite to his disdain for the current three- to four-month theatrical release window, which the executive says ignores evolving technology and hurts consumers.

Indeed, Netflix this week announced a landmark agreement with The Weinstein Co. to co-produce the 2015 sequel to 2000 Oscar-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and then upped the ante by signing a concurrent theatrical distribution deal with Imax.

While the CEO of Imax welcomed the chance to shake up the status quo, theater owners and operators railed against it. Major chains such as AMC Entertainment, Regal Cinemas and Cinemark vowed not to screen Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: The Green Legend on its Aug. 28, 2015, launch; they also promised to halt screenings at Imax theaters under their operation.

Theater operators have enjoyed decades-long control of new studio movies, with theatrical windows that hovered around six months in the 1990s to more than three months this year. Efforts by studios to shorten that window and expedite home entertainment distribution have been met with swift retaliation.

When Universal Studios in 2011 announced plans to offer action-comedy Tower Heist to premium VOD channels weeks after its box office debut, the theater chains threatened to boycott the film, including in-theater marketing and trailers. Universal killed the premium VOD option.

When Warner Bros. earlier this year announced it would release the theatrical adaptation of cult TV show “Veronica Mars” concurrently with its availability on digital sellthrough and transactional VOD rental, it rented hundreds of screens from AMC — in effect, making the chain a third-party distributor.

"On projects like this where we know we have a partner with the resources to promote the film and an easily targetable audience, we will rent theaters out," Nikkole Denson-Randolph, VP of special and alternative content at AMC, told The Wall Street Journal.

Regardless, Netflix is banking on capturing Sandler’s “targetable audience” among current and new subscribers to justify the exclusive deal. And that might not be a sure thing.

While Sandler’s "Grown Ups" franchise has done well at the box office, recent films Blended, That’s My Boy and Jack and Jill have been relatively less successful.

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