- Will Smith ($42 million) and Adam Sandler ($39.5 million) were two of the highest-paid actors in Forbes’ annual list, at No. 6 and No. 8 respectively.
- A big chunk of both their earnings came from making Netflix original movies that were eviscerated by critics but garnered more favorable reactions from audiences.
- Netflix doesn’t appear to care about the critics when doing certain kinds of movie deals.
A-list Hollywood stars Will Smith and Adam Sandler have found a new way of making money: starring in terrible Netflix original movies.
On Wednesday, Forbes released its list of the 10 highest-paid actors between June 1, 2017 and June 1, 2018. George Clooney came in first despite not having been in a movie, thanks to the $700 million sale of his company Casamigos Tequila.
But two of the other entries were powered by significant paychecks from Netflix. Adam Sandler came in at No. 8 with $39.5 million, a large chunk of which came from his sprawling movie deal with Netflix. Sandler originally signed a four-movie deal with Netflix in 2014, which was extended for another four films in 2017.
Sandler’s Netflix films have been universally trashed by critics. His first movie for Netflix, 2015’s “The Ridiculous 6,” has a stunning 0% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes. 2016’s “The Do-Over” has only a slightly better 5%. None of his Netflix movies so far have gotten over a 30% Rotten Tomatoes score from critics.
But Netflix’s execs love Sandler, praising how his comedy travels around the world and the high viewership of the movies he’s made with the company. And people must be watching otherwise the streaming giant would never have extended his deal for another four movies last year.
Netflix has used the examples of Sandler and Smith as a sign that critics are out of touch.
Netflix’s fantasy cop movie “Bright,” starring Smith, was its first foray into a true blockbuster. The movie reportedly cost $90 million to make, $20 million of which went to Smith, which helped him into the No. 6 spots on Forbes’ list at $42 million overall.
Critics tore the movie apart, giving it a 26% on Rotten Tomatoes, but audiences were more favorable. The movie’s audience rating on Rotten Tomatoes sits at 84% and had 11 million viewers its opening weekend on the service, according to Nielsen.
Earlier this year, Netflix’s programming boss Ted Sarandos referenced the disconnect between the critic and audience reaction.
“Critics are an important part of the artistic process but are pretty disconnected from the commercial prospects of a film,” Sarandos said. “If people are watching this movie and loving it, that’s the measurement of success. And if the critics get behind it or don’t, that’s a select group of social media influencers talking to a specific audience.”
And based on Netflix’s extension of its deal with Sandler, the company is ignoring the critics when deciding whether to shell out cash. We’ll see if more Hollywood stars follow Sandler and Smith’s lead.