Netflix Aims to Reinvent the Movie Business With Some Help From Adam Sandler



First it went after television. Now Netflix is going after movies. Adam Sandler is involved. It's the future of cinema, people. Better get used to it.

The streaming online video company, which has helped revolutionize delivery models and viewing habits for television series, announced two separate deals to produce and distribute original feature films this week, one of which—a sequel to  the Oscar-winning 2000 martial arts epic Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon—will also hit some movie theaters on the same day it goes out to Netflix subscribers.

The other deal involves the production of four new Adam Sandler movies, reportedly with budgets comparable to his traditional studio releases, which typically cost $40 million or more.

Why did Sandler take the deal? Here's his explanation, via The New York Times: "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."

It's that sort of brilliant verbal wit, folks, that makes Sandler such a comedic force to be reckoned with.

An alternative explanation is that Sandler's last few movies haven't performed very well at theaters—but his movies are, apparently, hugely popular on Netflix. According to the Times, Netflix noticed how strong the numbers were for Sandler's movies on the service and approached the actor through his agent about making a production deal.

The Sandler deal suggests the promise (and, okay, the peril) of all-online, all-on-demand media, in which users not only choose exactly what they want to see but leave a perfect digital record of their choices. That means that entertainment companies can make deals that more accurately capture and reflect the interests of their customers, and that products—and let's be clear, Sandler, the movie star, is a product—that don't or no longer have the mass appear to make it at the box office can find other homes.

This touches on some of the issues involved in both media ownership and Internet privacy debates as well: A company like Netflix obviously collects an awful lot of data on its users, well beyond the ratings that users submit about their tastes. But collecting all that data allows Netflix to know its customers better, and to create products they are more likely to enjoy. Other studios would have a harder time doing business this way, in part because they can't collect data on viewership quite as easily, and in part because they don't have the built in distribution network that Netflix has. (HBO is probably the closest competitor, and certainly when it comes to original television series, it blazed a trail for Netflix to follow and expand upon.)

The Crouching Tiger deal, on the other hand, is pretty clearly aimed at helping to, ah, degrade and eventually destroy the power of the big movie theater chains. The movie itself is not unimportant, but what Netflix really wants to crack are the distribution windows that give the theater industry a three-month exclusive on most big releases. That's why a big component of the deal is simultaneous distribution on IMAX screens, many of which are located in chain theater locations, but are operated somewhat independently.

As Netflix chief content officer told The New York Times, "What I am hoping is that it will be a proof point that the sky doesn't fall. These are two different experiences, like going to a football game and watching a football game on TV."

The theater chains are not happy about this, and at least two have already indicated they won't allow the movie to play on their screens. So it may be that we're in for a protracted business battle over release windows and distribution rights.

Fundamentally, what's happening here is that Netflix is taking aim at the movie business in much the same way it took aim at the television business—attempting to upend the old models and systems that have dominated Tinseltown for so long. Whether or not Netflix gets everything it wants, it's eventually likely to shake up the movie industry somehow. In the meantime, if the transformation of the movie industry looks anything like the transformation of television, we'll benefit as consumers from the competition.

I have a long look at how HBO, Netflix, ad-supported cable and others helped reshape television programming, and save it from decades of public-interest focused awfulness, in Reason's new, TV-themed print edition.

NEXT: Steve Chapman: Dangerous People and Deadly Force

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    1. I think I need to go lie down for a bit. I Googled AWESOM-O to go get a clip I wanted to link… The Wikipedia preview tells me that that episode aired over 10 years ago.

    2. THIS!

      “Awesome-O has generated over 1000 movie ideas….over 800 featuring Adam Sandler!”

      /Simpsons Did it

  1. That alt-text has unbelievable mass appear.

    1. Lacist!

  2. I’ll forgive them for Adam Sandler if they bring back Firefly or another season of Arrested Development.

    1. You KNOW if they brought Firefly back, Joss would take it to a weird place, right?

      1. “Since the series’ cancellation, various cast and crew members have revealed details they had planned for the show’s future:

        -Alan Tudyk had the idea for an episode about a planet that is always day on one side, and night on the other. On the night side, Jayne accidentally spills a type of pheromone on himself and the crew, which attracts a species of dogs. The crew are then chased back to the ship by these dogs. Once there, River uses her mind powers to domesticate the dogs.
        -Adam Baldwin wanted to make an episode in which Jayne goes up against Mal as captain of his own ship.
        -Tim Minear revealed the secret of Inara’s syringe, as seen in the pilot episode; she is infected with a deadly disease. There would have been an episode where she is gang-raped by Reavers. Because she injected herself with the syringe, all of the Reavers on the ship die.
        -According to Nathan Fillion, there was an episode in which the crew land on a dying planet. The inhabitants try to steal Serenity, after they explain to the crew about their need to get off planet. The problem is that unless they were to run into another ship along the way, with the extra passengers, Serenity wouldn’t have enough fuel and oxygen to make it to the closest destination. While everyone else is asleep, Mal takes the ship himself and discovers that help never would have arrived.”

        Guys, I think Firefly would’ve gotten really silly really fast. Think the worse parts of Buffy bad.

        1. Well, Tim Minear was there to restrain Whedon’s worse impulses. I’d rather have gotten some silliness plus some more great episodes rather than outright cancellation, to be honest.

          1. With Red Dwarf as the best example I can think of, it may be better just to let some things go.

          2. Eh, when Whedon says he’d still support the Alliance, regardless of the truly evil things he writes them doing, I don’t have much faith in the series going anywhere good over a longer period.

            1. Just another reason why Firefly is not a libertarian show.

        2. I doubt if the “Inara gets gang raped by reavers and they all die from her toxic vag” episode would have ever been made. Ditto for the silly dog episode.

          I’ve seen the interview where Adam Baldwin talks about Jayne getting his own ship, and the idea was that after trying to be a captain himself and failing miserably he would have to swallow his pride and slink back to Serenity, humbled.

          Also, for the episode with the dieing planet, the idea was that Mal would lock the rest of crew in their quarters and take off, thereby taking the responsibility for leaving all those people to die on his own shoulders alone. Personally both of those sound like kind of interesting for an episode or, in the case of “Captain Jayne” possibly a whole multi-episode story arc. You have to keep in mind that a lot of good shows have had ideas for episodes that never made it out the early stages of writing because the writers realized that they were too silly, stupid, or unworkable.

          Just my $0.02.

    2. Firefly at this point has been off the air for 12 years. To get back the original crew — forgetting for the moment the crew will be much older and that their age/beauty were important aspects of their characters — will be nearly impossible.

      I mean, I guess they could use a completely different set of characters but the new Star Trek movies just annoy me (“you’re not actually Spock, arsehole!”).

      That said, I’d still watch it even if the characters were octogenarians or completely unlike the original actor set so this opinion is probably worthless…

  3. With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Sandler it sounds more like a sequal then a reinvention.

    How is this any different then what the movie business is doing now, finding any old idea and repeating it?

    1. Its a reinvention of the movie business, not of the movies.

  4. Your lunch time derp: Lena Dunham’s harrowing tale of being sexually assaulted…..d=25898563

    1. Like I’m gonna click on that.

    2. “So many women go, ‘But I put myself in this situation.’ … that is a very dangerous mythology that we have to break down.”

    3. I had been drunk and taken a Xanax and been in that situation to begin with

      I think I found the problem…


        But seriously, she had drunken sex that she regrets having. To be fair, I am sure the guy regrets fucking her too.

        1. To be fair, I am sure the guy regrets fucking her too.

          Yet for some reason, she’s the only one who gets to play the “victim” card. Afterall, if fucking and regretting it later = rape, then technically didn’t she also rape the guy?

      2. Not to mention clarifying ‘that situation’ as being;

        If you are in the middle of having sex

        In the middle of sex, drunk, and taking Xanax, I’m sure what she said was a crystal clear ‘No’ rather than an ‘mnnnnmnmnmnahmnmnmn’.

        Clear cut case of “buyer’s remorse” IMO (If, as FOE points out, it’s real). At best a matter of whether the remorse started at the alcohol, Xanax, sex, or whatever particular sex act she to which she actually objected.

    4. Two possibilities. She actually did, or she’s feeling left out of the current victimhood fad. You decide.

      1. It is very odd for this to come out right when she’s selling her book. Surely this emotional story can be backed up by her doctor with Dunham’s permission right?

    5. A fellow Oberlin student? There are straight men that attend Oberlin? And can’t manage anything with all those dumb-as-dirt art school girls that they have to drunkenly grope a Taylor Pork Roll with eyes?

      1. Hey, at least Taylor Ham tastes good. But I don’t think they have pork rolls in Ohio.

        1. No, they don’t. She lives in NYC now.

          1. Have you even ever HAD pork roll you Kentucky redneck?

            1. I’ve never slept with a fat chick, you Axe body spray addict.

              1. I wish I could say the same but I’ve slept with your mom, so I can’t. And she LOVES Axe.

                1. Your words are very hurtful.

        2. Pork rolls in Ohio? Sure. You ever SEEN women from Findlay?

          1. I live in Findlay you son of a bitch

            1. a lot of fat old asian women…

      2. Oberlin, you say? Has any tale of victimization that has come out of that place not later been found to be a complete fabrication?

        1. Fabrication, wishful thinking, whatever.

    6. How did the er, man, fare after such an encounter? /cold-hearted bastard

    7. I won’t be IGNORED, now will I?

    8. Dunham continued about her experience that she thinks “so many people don’t understand what the meaning of consent is,” regarding sex.

      But almost everyone understands what the sentence “you’re a slut” means, regarding sex.

  5. Hi, I’m Troy McClure. Perhaps you remember me from such straight to internet streaming service films as “Pixelated Darkness” and “Honey, I Shrunk The Loading… Please Wait”.

    1. +1 Revenge of Abe Lincoln.

    2. Well done

    3. Yeah, streaming anything is going to have to start sucking a whole lot less before I give Netflix and its ilk the time of day.

      1. Streaming is awesome. Netflix and Amazon Prime subscriptions for movies/TV. And Wiziwig for sports. You don’t have DSL?

      2. My only real complaint about Netflix streaming is that you get none of the bonus features, like deleted scenes, director commentary, “making of” featurettes, etc. Maybe other streamers do give you them.

        I also live in sat net country, $80 a month for 15GB download limit. Kind puts a cramp in streaming.

  6. Maybe if it were someone else and NOT Adam Sandler…

    1. It’s his egg-shaped head, isn’t it?

    2. He is so completely unwatchable that of course he would have to become a huge star.

  7. Other studios would have a harder time doing business this way, in part because they can’t collect data on viewership quite as easily,

    WTF? Streaming figures are no different than box office receipts.

    People are NOT going to the theaters to watch any new Adam Sandler movie. They ARE streaming OLD Sandler movies and “streaming one of those other Adam Sandler movies that I heard weren’t good so I didn’t go but I streamed it and it fucking sucked and had to stream another old one to get rid of the stench and now Netflix thinks I can’t wait to stream another new-and-still-shitty Adam Sandler movie.”

    1. Yeah, I’m definitely in the “Eh, I’ll wait until it comes on Netflix” camp.

      1. I’m in the “I don’t have enough life left to waste on even more shit” camp.

        1. I was talking about movies generally, not Adam Sandler movies specifically.

          1. I meant generally. I would like the see the figures from Netflix on how many movies and shows were watched for 20 minutes and then abandoned because they sucked.

            It’s a lot harder to walk out of a shitty movie than it is to just turn off the stream and do something else.

  8. Reason’s new, TV-themed print edition

    Could I get a print-themed TV edition?

    Failing that I’ll settle for a e-reader-themed podcast edition.

  9. Was Crouching Tiger really that good? I remember all the hype that movie had years ago, and I think I watched the DVD at some point and wasn’t impressed.

    I’ll admit I have this stereotype of an American CTHD fan as a pretentious white person who feels the need to broadcast how “exotic” his taste in film is.

    1. I liked it – but I’m a big Chow Yun-fat fan.

    2. It was pretty lame. I mean at least The Matrix had an interesting story to go with their unusual fighting FX. CTHD didn’t have an interesting enough story for anyone to give a shit. Only the pretentious white person you mentioned liked it. But I bet by now, that same person isn’t going to watch the sequel because in their heart of hearts they know it was boring and now it’s a sequel and sequels are what “fly overs” drool at.

    3. It wasn’t bad, though I’d say it was overrated. I’m not a fan of the film style where the actors fly around on wires, which Chinese seem to love. It just looks retarded when they go flying around in the air with their legs kicking.

      Although, I’ll watch anything with Zhang Ziyi in it. Yum.

    4. Did you watch the subtitled version or the dubbed version. If you watched the dubbed version, it sucked because the dub is terrible and drains all the subtlety out of the performances.

      1. My god I hope you’re deliberately trying to sound like every Anime watcher stereotype I know.

        Endless bitching about ‘subs, not dubs’ is bad enough on every frigging youtube video.

        1. No, he’s right.

          The English dubbing was very poorly done. The voice actors had no feeling . The voices of the actual actors convey a great deal of emotion that was wholly absent from the dubbed version.

          I enjoyed the movie myself; it appealed to my taste for Chinese melodrama.

          1. Fair enough, it’s been years since I saw it and I watched it with subtitles. All I remember is some delightfully silly fight scenes. Anime nerd whining has made me bitter.

            1. It’s really not that hard to avoid the nerd whining and watch things in whatever format you want.

        2. I’m not against dubs in general; I’m against this particular dub because it was poorly done and ruined a great movie.

          1. Same deal with Jackie Chan’s Gorgeous.

            The American voice actress doing Bu’s voice seemed to think she was playing Dora the Explorer.

            1. “The American voice actress doing Bu’s voice seemed to think she was playing Dora the Explorer.”

              Ten grand, people. Ten grand.

    5. The Bride with White Hair was much better.…..fn_al_tt_1

  10. Cable TV promised me narrow-casting to give me exactly what I want to watch, but instead they gave me wall-to-wall reruns.

    Satellite TV promised me narrow-casting out in the boondocks to give me exactly what I want to watch, but instead they gave me wall-to-wall reruns.

    Netflix skipped directly to giving me wall-to-wall reruns over the Internet.

    I don’t see Netflix becoming a major produce of original content. They will merely destroy what is left of the existing market for original content.

    1. Nah. They’ll be just like HBO in that for $8 a month they’ll gladly make 4 new hours of programming available per month streamable only on their service (for the first 7 years).

    2. Re: kinnath,

      I don’t see Netflix becoming a major produce of original content.

      I don’t either. I can only visualize them as a single stalk of celery, at most.

    3. I don’t know. They seem to be producing new stuff pretty consistently at this point. And I could see them replacing cable or broadcast as a major distributor of new content that they don’t produce themselves.

      But I usually prefer to watch reruns, so what do I know.

  11. Will Adam Sandler be a Golden Retriever in any of these films?

  12. The scariest headline I’ve seen all week that didn’t include the words “ISIS,” or “Ebola”…

  13. Adam Sandler is on a list of people that I’m supposed to think are funny but I just don’t get a lot of the time. Also on the list: Robin Williams, and most of Will Ferrell.

    1. If you haven’t seen Robin Williams’ standup, you should. I don’t find many of his movies very funny. Ferrell and Sandler are just idiots with some kind of funny schtick that gets old fast.

  14. As to whether or not CTHD is overrated: I thought it was a really good movie, but also that it came out in 2000, which was a really weak year for film, so some of that was just being better than the other films coming out at the time.

  15. “Sandler’s…movies are, apparently, hugely popular on Netflix”

    Who am I to quarrel with success?

  16. Netflix: Well we had to sign Adam Sandler to a four movie deal to keep him from ever making a movie again, but we think viewer goodwill at our actions will far outweigh the cost of paying him to not make movies.

  17. First it went after television. Now Netflix is going after movies. Adam Sandler is involved. It’s the future of cinema, people. Better get used to it.

    The problem here, Peter, is that Netflix has done a horrible job ‘going after television’.

    How many people do you know got rid of their cable subscription after trying out Netflix for a while? Probably none. I know plenty of people who’ve dropped Netflix but still pay for cable.

    1. Me. But of course I wouldn’t have cable even if netflix didn’t exist because… the internet.

      1. Same here.

    2. I got rid of cable. I just use Netflix + Amazon Instant Video.

      1. Me too. Though I couldn’t get cable if I wanted it where I live now.

        There is only so much time to spend watching stuff.

  18. Netflix rhymes with Wet Chicks.

    Netflix rhymes with pet dicks.

    1. Dumb [ethnic slur]

  19. Ugh. I so wish that they would instead spend their money on getting actual good movies on the streaming service. I have to have the disc plan as well because the streaming selection resembles a convenience store video rental section in the late 80s.

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