Adam Sandler: Netflix Defends Its Damaged Goods

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Despite Ted Sarandos calling Sandler an "enormous international movie star," recent box office says otherwise. Can the once critic-proof comedian reinvent himself on the small screen?

A version of this story first appeared in the August 7 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

For years, Adam Sandler was Pac-Man at the box office, gobbling up grosses for critic-proof movies. But Pixels' soft $24 million domestic debut comes on the heels of a series of recent disappointments.

Just don't tell Netflix chief content officer Ted Sarandos, who on July 28 defended the streaming service's lucrative four-picture deal with Sandler, declaring him a huge "international star."

"[Pixels] did $24 million domestically, $25 million internationally, and a third of our subscribers are outside of the U.S.,” said Sarandos during an appearance at the Television Critics Association summer press tour. “That’s why we made a deal with Adam Sandler, because he’s an enormous international movie star. That $25 million opening for Pixels is pretty respectable, and I think it will continue to grow.”

Sarandos may be overstating things. In truth, the Sony movie has had a lukewarm reception offshore so far, except for in Latin America and Russia. However, it has yet to open in several major European markets, including the U.K., and China, which can deliver giant returns for U.S. tentpoles.

Pixels, Sandler and director Chris Columbus' love letter to video games of the 1980s, was co-financed by LStar Capital and China Film Group, meaning it was made in part with Chinese audiences in mind. One potential problem: Pixels opens Sept. 15 in China, only two days after Minions, which has proven a much bigger international hit.

But several of Sandler's U.S. duds have fared better overseas. Last summer, Blended bombed domestically with $46.3 million but earned a slightly better $80.5 million internationally.

Sarandos says Sandler's movies perform well on Netflix in the U.S. and overseas, and he expects the same from the controversial Western The Ridiculous 6 (out Dec. 11), even after Native American actors complained about insensitivities in the script.

And Sandler, 48, is filming The Do Over with David Spade, which follows two down-on-their-luck guys who fake their deaths and start over. Without box-office pressure, Sandler could continue to serve his core fan base even as his comedy becomes less mainstream. Or, notes Rentrak analyst Paul Dergarabedian, "Netflix could offer a small-screen sanctuary for Sandler, who could, if he chooses, reinvent himself."

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