Friday, December 14, 2012


I can readily admit, I used to enjoy Adam Sandler movies.

'Billy Madison' was funny.

So was the 'Wedding Singer'.

And then, at some point around 'Little Nicky' it started to slide.

'Anger Management' was OK, but that was more Jack Nicholson's help than Sandler.

And then he squeezed out the $90 million 'You Don't Mess With The Zohan'. Good god that was awful.

But he topped that with the absolutely abominable $79 million 'Jack and Jill'.

And of course recently, the universally panned $70 million 'That's My Boy'.

The last two are particularly significant.

'Jack and Jill' was the first movie EVER to win every category at the Razzie's, the anti-oscars that recognises the worst movies and performances. It even won Adam Sandler a worst actress and wost actor gong, because Sandler played both roles of the titular sibling pair.

Sandler has never been a critics darling, but 'Jack and Jill' also scored a terrible 3% on film rating site Rotten Tomatoes. This marks the first real turn against Sandler by his audience.

To be sure, the film still made a healthy profit at the box office, as did the other films I mentioned. In that sense, Sandler didn't have to be too dissuaded.

Until 'That's My Boy'.

'That's My Boy' marks the first of this recent string of films to show poorly at the box office, returning only $58 Million of its $70 million budget.

So what happened?
Did Sandler have his 'jump the shark' moment, officially running out of ideas?

I stumbled upon an interesting analysis which suggests something different.

In their analysis, these guys suggest Sandler has found a way to use product placement and p*nis jokes to guarantee that he will be paid millions of dollars.

You see, Adam Sandler gets paid $25 million a movie up front. That is regardless of how it performs at the box office.

After his golden years, when Sandler made half-decent and commercially successful films, he has a built-in audience, to some degree. These are people who will come and see his films because they are 'Adam Sandler' films.

So, the analysis suggests it is simply a form of mathematics:


For this, Sandler can charge his $25 million producer's fee up front and live happily ever after.

My favourite quote from the article sums it up best:

The $79 million question is, as Jay puts it: "At what point does something like this cease to be able to be called a 'movie.' And I think this is it." "Jack and Jill" cost more than half again as much as last summer's $50 million comedy "Crazy, Stupid, Love," which had more stars: Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Julianne Moore, Emma Stone... and yet, as Mike says, it looks like it was shot over the weekend. Maybe in somebody's garage. Jay says he he has nothing against product placement, but "Jack and Jill" seems to have been designed around the ads: "They literally stop the film to have commercial breaks."

So, is it possible that they are right and that Sandler has decided to stop telling stories and just make a lot money?

Yes, it is absolutely possible.

What you may not realise is that generally a film producer gets paid on the size of the budget. A usual 'Producer's Fee' is 2-5% of the production budget. The bigger the production budget, the bigger your actual fee becomes in dollar terms.

In one of my previous newsletters I told the tale of a feature film producer who I met, who had turned filmmaking into a day job in the worst sense:

This producer talked about finding ways to get your film's budget level higher so you can charge a higher fee and make a living. My argument was that, if all you want is money, there are much more financially stable ways to make a living. If you are not interested in good storytelling, become an accountant.

What this producer talked about is exactly what Sandler is doing on a much larger scale with his films.

Sandler assembles a semi-attractive looking film with enough names attached and crass humour to look like it will draw a crowd. He fills it with product placement, bumps up the budget level and charges his big fee.

From this, he lives very comfortably.

However, where the...


...equation has started to fall down is in the 'Sandler's Audience' part.

You see, if you disrespect the audience long enough, they will stop being your audience.

One could suggest that a film winning EVERY category of the worst film awards is a big step in that direction.

Sadly, I think Sandler is a talented guy.

He was wonderful in 'Funny People', 'Punch Drunk Love' and 'Reign Over Me'.

Unfortunately for Sandler, however, is that the common thread between these better films is that none of them were 'Adam Sandler' films, in the classic sense.

So you have a choice.

Stay humble. Stay true to your storytelling. Never lose sight of your audience.

Judd Apatow is a respected filmmaker and millionaire doing it this way.

Or you can forego good storytelling and try and fleece your audience for as much money as possible.

Just hope you make enough money before your audience turns on you.

Oh, and be sure to keep shelf space aside for your Razzie.

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