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Streaming service boosts pay packages for actors

Published: May 01, 2019 21:54:51 | Updated: May 10, 2019 17:38:06


The streaming service is bolstering pay packages for the most famous actors in the business at a time when studios are getting downright stingy about writing generous checks, reports MSN.com.

Ryan Reynolds, for instance, is getting $27 million to star in “Six Underground,” a Michael Bay film about a billionaire-financed vigilante squad, and Denzel Washington asked for $30 million to topline an action film for the company before opting to pass in favor of other projects.

 An insider disputes that Washington was ever offered a specific salary.

Will Smith will likely score $35 million from Netflix in exchange for reprising his role as a wisecracking cop in “Bright 2.”

On the face of it, those figures are larger than what more traditional studios are willing to shell out for stars.

Smith and Martin Lawrence once commanded $20 million a picture, but both actors are shaving their asking prices to get “Bad Boys for Life” off the ground.

Likewise, Tom Cruise may have earned $20 million in his mid-’90s and early aughts heyday, but to reprise his iconic role as Maverick, the rule-bending aviator in “Top Gun: Maverick,” he’s pulling in a relatively modest $12 million to $14 million.

Even the big franchises don’t pay what they once did.

Netflix salaries come with one big caveat.

The stars don’t share in any upside. Even if customers love a movie, stream it ad nauseam and encourage their friends to check it out, actors’ take-home pay stays the same.

On a studio movie such as the recent horror hit “Us,” Lupita Nyong’o may only get a little more than scale, but her haul will be several million dollars by the time the movie wraps its theatrical and home entertainment runs, thanks to a generous back-end deal.

 

For most projects, actors’ contracts stipulate that they will receive a percentage of the profits. In rare cases, a major star will get what is called first-dollar gross, which is a portion of the studio revenues before a picture is in the black. Because Netflix movies do not have wide theatrical distribution and the company receives most of its revenues from subscriptions, not from home entertainment sales and licensing, a similar form of profit sharing isn’t feasible. Netflix’s salaries tend to be larger as a reflection of that reality.

Sometimes it’s the stars themselves who are willing to work for less, not just the studios dictating that they take a haircut. Ansel Elgort commands $5 million on fare that’s more commercial, but he’s making less than that for a chance to work with Steven Spielberg on “West Side Story.” And DiCaprio and Brad Pitt took roughly half what they usually command, or $10 million apiece, to pair up for Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” In those cases, working with some of the most talented filmmakers in the business is reward enough.

 

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