It’s been a little over two years since Netflix signed a deal with Adam Sandler to star in and produce four films to be available exclusively on the internet-video service worldwide. The first offering, Ridiculous 6, debuts on December 11.
To date his films have, unadjusted for inflation, grossed almost $4.6 billion at the box office worldwide. However, for every Hotel Transylvania 2 with a take of $437.1 million and growing, there is a That’s My Boy with a haul of $57.7 million.
Even the critically derided but heavily promoted Pixels garnered $243.6 million internationally. Before that his other most recent big release, Blended, limped to a worldwide take of $128 million. These are not the darkest days for Sandler, but he’s had better runs.
There is clearly still a lot of love for Adam Sandler, and it’s almost impossible not to sit and watch some of the Saturday Night Live alumni’s classics such as The Wedding Singer, Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore or even The Waterboy whenever they roll around on cable of pop up on VOD – the most recent gem in that list was released in 1998. By taking out the need for the audience to even put their pants on or hire a babysitter, Sandler and Netflix have a captive audience – and a repeat audience, if they like the product.
It’s fair to say that Eddie Murphy has found himself on a similar path at the box office but hasn’t taken the Netflix fork in the road.
Someone who has is Bill Murray. December 4 marks the day that he joined the VOD fold with holiday special, A Very Murray Christmas. With celebrity guest list that includes Miley Cyrus, Amy Poehler, Chris Rock, and George Clooney, Murray sings and dances and more in an hour long holiday special reminiscent of an old fashioned variety show that has future traditional TV event written all over it.
Loved and respected as he is, Murray has most recently been stung by flops such as Rock The Kasbah, which had a domestic gross of $3 million, and Alohathat pulled in just $21 million – both were mauled by journalists, largely shunned by audiences and are cropping up on a number of lists of the some of the worst films of 2015. Both films are far cry from the glory day critical and financial big screen gems in his portfolio such as Ghostbusters, Tootsie,Groundhog Day, Stripes and even Zombieland. His most recent hits before this year both fall outside of this Top Ten takes by some margin.
Again, Eddie Murphy has found himself on a similar, if not as drastic, path at the box office but hasn’t taken the Netflix fork in the road. Yet.
On October 18 2015, Murphy was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor and the ceremony aired on PBS for the first time on November 23. The likes of Dave Chappelle, George Lopez, Kathy Griffin, Tracy Morgan, Trevor Noah and Chris Rock all paid tribute to the 54-year-old, and clips from his catalogue of films were shown. Like a tick list of comedy classics they rolled from Trading Places to Shrek, from best loved Saturday Night Live sketches to all time great moments from his stand up concert movies, The Nutty Professor,The Distinguished Gentleman and so on – the list was impressive.
However, if you take the Shrek franchise out of the picture, the last time Eddie Murphy had a bonafide hit with a domestic take of over $100 million you need to go all the way back to Dreamgirls in December 2006 – a performance that gained him an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor and took $103 million. The closest he has come to that domestic benchmark figure in recent history is Norbit with ticket sales of $95.6 million – internationally Dreamgirlsand Norbit took $126.7 million and $115.9 million respectively.
There are three common denominators here – an enduring love for a legendary Saturday Night Live alumnus, a declining or at best inconsistent box office performance and the potential to flourish on an internet-video service such as Netflix or Hulu or Amazon Prime or whoever.
The audience is there to embrace them in their own homes, the deals just need to be done and the stars need to be open to it. That fact alone gets me thinking and brings me to the question, hasn’t it also been too long since Wayne and Garth partied on?
By Simon Thompson, Forbes