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‘Black Panther’: All The Box Office Records It Broke (And Almost Broke) In Its $235M Debut

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The numbers are in and Black Panther is a monster hit. More than that, it has already earned a place in the box office history books in just its first three-to-four days of release. The movie earned a $201.8 million Fri-Sun weekend and will earn an estimated $235m over the Fri-Mon holiday. So, without further ado, I wanted to take a moment to note the copious big ways that the Ryan Coogler-directed/Chadwick Boseman-starring superhero spectacular has already planted its flag in the sand. Please enjoy eight box office records that Black Panther has already broken and ten more where it came awfully close to the top of the mountain. Let’s put “All the Stars” or “Opps” on your music device of choice, open up that Box Office Mojo tab and dive in!

Marvel Studios’ BLACK PANTHER..L to R: Ayo (Florence Kasumba) and Okoye (Danai Gurira)..Ph: Film Frame..©Marvel Studios 2018

Biggest February opening weekend:

The previous high-water mark for a February opening weekend was Deadpool with $132 million over the Fri-Sun frame and $152m over the Fri-Mon Presidents Day weekend. While Black Panther lacked the Valentine’s Day advantage (Feb. 14 fell on a Saturday that year), it also played in 3D and had a PG-13 rating. Either way, it earned around 52% more than Deadpool and 148% more than Fifty Shades of Grey (which also had a Valentine’s Day Saturday advantage).

Point being, February has a new king of the box office. Oh, and it still had a terrific 2.66x weekend multiplier (The Avengers had a 2.58x multiplier without a Monday holiday), which makes sense given the A+ Cinemascore. It’s not the highest multiplier for an MCU opener, but it’s near the top of the food chain alongside their big November openers (Thor 2, Thor 3 and Doctor Strange).

Biggest non-sequel opening weekend:

Unless you want to count The Avengers as a non-sequel (which you should not, since it literally plays as a sequel to Iron Man 2, Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger), then Black Panther has the second-biggest non-sequel debut of all time. But absent that, Black Panther (an almost entirely stand-alone movie) has the new record for the biggest Fri-Sun launch for a non-sequel/prequel, displacing The Hunger Games which opened with $152m in March of 2012 (in 2D). And yes, it took this record even when accounting for inflation.

Biggest solo superhero launch of all time:

Since it opened above the $174 million opening weekend of Iron Man 3, Black Panther has the new milestone for a solo superhero Fri-Sun debut. Yes, I count Captain America: Civil War as an ensemble film (or at the very least a Captain America/Iron Man two-hander), but since Black Panther topped that film’s $179m Fri-Sun debut that’s somewhat trivial.

The only other bigger comic book superhero launch is The Avengers. If you want to play the inflation game, which is fair, the solo Black Panther adventure would be in fourth-place just behind The Dark Knight ($158 million in 2008 sans 3D, $202.5m adjusted for inflation), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($191m/$203.9m and The Avengers ($207m/$234m). By the way, if Black Panther ends up as frontloaded as Spider-Man 3 ($151m debut in 2007, which could be $201m today, for an eventual $336m domestic cume), it still gets to $445m domestic.

Biggest Fri-Sun opening weekend for a long holiday debut:

This is another one it swiped from Deadpool, as the MCU flick has now earned more money in its Fri-Sun frame than any movie ever that had an extra day before or after its conventional Fri-Sun opening weekend. It goes without saying that the Fri-Sun figure may have been even bigger without Presidents Day soaking up some of the demand. But I think all parties will find a way to cope, and Presidents Day weekend has a long history (Daredevil, Ghost Rider, Kingsman, Deadpool) of comic book movies breaking out.

Biggest long holiday opening weekend:

In terms of all “long weekend openings,” be they four days or six days, Black Panther’s estimated $235 million four-day launch (which could go up) is ahead of the $200 million Wed-Sun debut of Paramount/Viacom Inc.’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the $180 million six-day Independence Day weekend openings for Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Spider-Man 2 (the latter in 2D way back in 2004), the $158 million Thurs-Sun opening of Star Wars Episode III: The Revenge of the Sith, the $156 million Fri-Mon Memorial debut of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, the $156 million Tuesday-to-Sunday Independence Day weekend debut of the original Transformers and the $152m Fri-Mon opening of Deadpool (in 2D and with an R-rating).

Biggest opening weekend ever for any movie not directed by a white guy:

There is going to be a lot of talk about how the blow-out domestic and international box office triumph disproves conventional wisdom about what kind of folks must be the leads in big movies to make big bucks, but we should have already known that for years now (12 Years a Slave and Moonlight both made more overseas than in North America).

But Black Panther’s boffo opening is the biggest opening ever for any movie not helmed by a white guy, displacing James Wan’s Furious 7 (which earned $1.5 billion worldwide despite/because of a diverse cast). Although I’m sure they are all rooting for each other, I’d like to think that Wan or Patty Jenkins is sitting in a swivel chair right now petting an (evil) cat and plotting his or her revenge.

By the way, since The Force Awakens was sold as a Daisy Ridley/John Boyega two-hander, I would argue that said Star Wars story still counts as the biggest opening for a movie starring a minority actor.

Biggest-grossing movie (in North America) directed by a black filmmaker:

With at least $235 million in four days, it has already passed the (2D) domestic total of F. Gary Gray’s Fate of the Furious. Sure, it has some work to go to catch up with Fate of the Furious’ $1.1 billion global total, but after this weekend, with a $404m+ worldwide launch, that pie-in-the-sky scenario isn’t entirely implausible.

Biggest pre-summer opening weekend:

Black Panther has the fifth-biggest Fri-Sun debut of all time. And since two of the bigger ones were Star Wars movies in mid-December and the other two were summer flicks (Avengers and Jurassic World), Black Panther has dethroned Batman v Superman ($166 million) as the biggest pre-summer opener of all time.

2nd-Biggest comic book superhero opening weekend:

Among all comic book superhero movie opening weekends, the Fri-Sun frame stands behind only The Avengers ($207 million). It snagged a bigger opening weekend than Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($166m), making it “bigger” than any DC movie ever (sans inflation). Heck, if you want to be a jerk about it, Black Panther has already outgrossed Justice League ($228m) in North America.

If we play the inflation card, then Black Panther is just over/under the likes of Spider-Man 3 ($201.6m adjusted), The Dark Knight ($202.5m adjusted) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($203.9m adjusted). Sure, it’s behind The Avengers ($234.5m adjusted), but it only needed four days to gross that amount, and those flicks didn’t have an extra holiday messing with the Fri-Sun total.

2nd-biggest Sunday gross:

With the final estimates now counted for the Fri-Sun frame, Black Panther’s $60.096 million Sunday gross is down just -8% from Saturday and $9.5m more than the “pure” $50.6m Friday gross. It is the 33rd-biggest single-day gross. But it’s also the second-biggest Sunday gross of all time, behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($60.5m). If you want to play the inflation card, it is the fourth-biggest Sunday behind The Avengers, The Force Awakens and Jurassic World.

3rd-biggest four-day gross:

With at least $235 million in four days, it sits behind only The Last Jedi ($241m) and The Force Awakens ($288m) among the biggest four-day totals. Again, if you play the inflation card, we’re still looking at the fifth spot on this list, with The Dark Knight sneaking past the Black Panther. We’re hearing rumblings of a bigger-than-anticipated Monday, one that could push the MCU movie past The Last Jedi, but I can update quickly enough if the occasion arises.

3rd-biggest non-summer opening weekend:

As of now, Black Panther’s Fri-Sun frame is the fifth-biggest overall launch of all time. And of those four bigger debuts, only two of them (The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi) opened outside of the core summer season. And yeah, if you account for inflation, Black Panther remains the third-biggest non-summer opening weekend of all time and the biggest pre-summer debut of all time.

4th-biggest Saturday gross:

After its boffo opening day, Black Panther earned $65.8 million on Saturday. That was a mere 13% drop from opening day or a 31% jump if you take out the Thursday previews. It’s also the 24th-biggest single-day gross of all time and the fourth-biggest Saturday figure, between Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($63m) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($68.2m), The Avengers ($69.5m) and Jurassic World ($69.4m). If you count inflation, it’s still in eighth place.

5th-biggest opening weekend of all time:

This one pretty much speaks for itself. With a $201.8 million Fri-Sun frame, it sits behind only The Avengers ($207m), Jurassic World ($208m), Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($220m) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($248m).

If you adjust for inflation, Black Panther will end up in seventh place behind only The Dark Knight ($202.3m adjusted), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($203.9m), The Last Jedi ($220m), Jurassic World ($232m), The Avengers ($234m) and The Force Awakens ($261m).

8th-biggest Friday and 8th-biggest single-day gross:

Among single-day grosses, Friday grosses and opening day grosses, Black Panther’s $75.8 million Friday sits behind only The Avengers ($80.8m), Batman v Superman ($81.5m), Jurassic World ($81.9m), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($91m), Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part II ($91m), The Last Jedi ($104.6m) and The Force Awakens ($119.1m).

8th-biggest Monday gross:

The estimates could change tomorrow, but as of now, Black Panther has earned $33.2 million on its fourth day of release. That is the 179th-biggest single day ever, just ahead of Justice League’s initial Saturday gross.

And, as of this writing, it is the ninth-biggest Monday gross, behind The Force Awakens ($42.3m), Spider-Man 2 ($40.8m), The Lost World: Jurassic Park ($36m), Shrek 2 ($34.6m on its 13th day of release), Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($34.2m) and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story ($33.5m) and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($33.45m).But that could go away up once the finals are in. Even an extra $2.8m will make it the third-biggest Monday of all time.

25th-biggest comic book movie of all time:

In just four days, its estimated $235 million gross already makes it the 25th-biggest comic book adaptation of all time, just ahead of X-Men: Days of Future Past ($233.9m) and X-Men: The Last Stand ($234.3m). It will be shooting up said chart every day for the next week or so. By Tuesday or Wednesday, it’ll be past the likes of Men in Black ($250m), Batman ($251m), Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($259m) and The Amazing Spider-Man ($262m).

26th-biggest superhero movie of all time:

In just four days, its estimated $235 million gross already makes it the 26th-biggest superhero movie of all time. Yes, I’m counting The Matrix Reloaded ($271m in 2003) and The Incredibles ($262m in 2004), but that won’t matter in a few days. It will be shooting up said chart every day for the next week or so, which will give me plenty of fodder for daily updates. Just by Tuesday or Wednesday, it’ll be past the (unadjusted) domestic grosses of Men in Black ($250m), Batman ($251m), Captain America: The Winter Soldier ($259m), The Incredibles ($261m) and The Amazing Spider-Man ($262m).

I am sure there are other arbitrary milestones that I left off, such as “fifth-fastest to $200 million domestic alongside the other did-it-in-three-days openers” or “biggest-grossing movie for Ryan Coogler and Michael B. Jordan” or what-have-you. Oh, and it had the fourth-biggest IMAX domestic debut ever behind Jurassic World, The Last Jedi and The Force Awakens. But this is long enough already, and even if that Monday number is underestimated and skews the results even higher, I think you’ve got a pretty clear picture of just how huge this movie turned out to be straight out of the gate. There are going to be plenty more milestones over the next two weeks, so watch this space for daily updates, give or take a fluke on my schedule.

If you like what you’re reading, follow @ScottMendelson on Twitter, and “like” The Ticket Booth on Facebook. Also, check out my archives for older work HERE.

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Can Diddy’s Ciroc Recipe Work On Alkaline Water?

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The first time Sean “Diddy” Combs took a sip of Aquahydrate alkaline water—given to him by pal Mark Wahlberg at a Las Vegas boxing match in the early 2010s—he found it to be an ideal antidote for evenings spent consuming adult beverages.

“I went out that night and had a Vegas night, and I woke up and had a Vegas morning,” Diddy told me in 2015. “I drank two of the [Aquahydrate] bottles and it was, like, the best tasting water that I’ve tasted. And it really, honestly helped me recover.”

Diddy became the face of the company alongside Wahlberg shortly thereafter, and the pair invested $20 million in Aquahydrate over the years while billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa added another $27 million.

READ MORE | Hip-Hop’s Next Billionaires: Richest Rappers 2019

They aren’t the only ones with lofty ambitions for the brand: last week the Alkaline Water Co., the publicly-traded purveyor of competitor Alkaline88, bought Aquahydrate in an all-stock deal that valued the latter at about $50 million.

For Diddy, who ranks No. 4 on our recently-released list of hip-hop’s top earners and boasts a net worth of $740 million, alkaline water holdings are just a drop in his financial bucket. His Diageo-backed Ciroc vodka—and its myriad flavors, from Red Berry to Summer Watermelon—is responsible for the lion’s share of his wealth. But it’s clear he thinks alkaline water, flavored variants included, could swell his portfolio. So do his new partners.

Diddy
CRAIG BARRITT AND ALEXANDER TAMARGO/GETTY IMAGES. DESIGN: NICK DESANTIS/FORBES

“You put both these brands under one public company, it makes a ton of sense,” says Aaron Keay, Alkaline’s chairman, of the Aquahydrate deal. “We see synergies on distribution, we see cost-savings on cost of goods. On production, on logistics, on staffing. … And we don’t see both brands actually then competing for the same target market.”

In the past, flavored water has enriched investors including some of Diddy’s hip-hop world comrades. A little over a decade ago, 50 Cent famously took Vitaminwater equity in lieu of stock as payment for his endorsement—and walked away with some $100 million when Coca-Cola bought its parent company for $4.1 billion in 2007.

A ten-figure valuation for an alkaline water company seems an outlandish target even for the notoriously bombastic Diddy. But Keay notes Alkaline clocked $33 million in revenues over the past fiscal year and had been expecting $48 million in 2020; now, with Aquahydrate on board, he projects closer to $60-$65 million. That compares favorably to Core Water, which was doing some $80 million as of last year before getting acquired.

“For two or three years, Core Water was just another clear water,” says Keay. “Then they added about a half dozen flavors. Sales doubled. They got bought for $500 million. I mean, for us, $500 million would be a big number off of where our market cap is right now.”

Diddy appears to be an ideal ally in achieving that goal. With Ciroc, once a middling vodka in Diageo’s roster, he was able to articulate importance of the brand’s defining trait: it was made from grapes, not grains (never mind that this might technically disqualify it from being considered a vodka). His contention, according to Stephen Rust, Diageo’s president of new business and reserve brands, is that grapes are simply sexier than potatoes.

“One of his favorite things [to say] is, ‘If you can have a vodka that comes from a history of winemaking, why would you do that versus the history of coming from potatoes?’” Rust explained in an interview for my book, 3 Kings: Diddy, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, And Hip-Hop’s Multibillion-Dollar Rise. “That’s Sean.”

With alkaline water, Diddy has demonstrated a similar knack for sizing up a product and extracting an elemental notion that passes muster with consumers (if not necessarily scientists). If “you’re full of acid,” Diddy once explained to me, you need to “get your body leveled out.”

Vodka and water, of course, are two very different products, and the same tactics won’t necessarily translate from one business to another. Flavored water itself seems to have been over-carbonated of late, as the recent struggles of brands like La Croix show; Alkaline’s shares have slumped this year as well.

Perhaps that’s why Alkaline is looking beyond its flagship bottled water business. Future plans call for a move towards cans in a nod to environmentally-conscious customers, as well as expansion into the nascent CBD-infused beverage space. Keay figures Diddy and Wahlberg, along with fellow celebrity investor Jillian Michaels, should provide a boost across the board.

“Once the FDA makes a ruling about how CBD is going to be distributed through those chains and channels, those guys are going to want trusted brands, brands that they know already have a consumer following,” says Keay. “And that was another big reason why it made sense to bring [Diddy, Wahlberg and Michaels] in, because it’s only going to help.”

Zack O’Malley Greenburg; Forbes

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The Highest-Paid Actors 2019: Dwayne Johnson, Bradley Cooper And Chris Hemsworth

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A bankable leading man is still one of Hollywood’s surest bets, even if your name isn’t Leonardo DiCaprio. While the lucrative twenty-twenty deal ($20 million upfront and 20% of gross profit) doled out to the likes of Harrison Ford and Tom Cruise may be more or less gone, Hollywood still has its big-money brands, those actors who can promise an audience so big that they command not only an eight-figure salary to show up on set but also a decent chunk of a film’s nebulous “pool”—or the money left over after some but not all of the bills are paid. 

Dwayne Johnson, also known as the Rock, tops the Forbes list of the world’s ten highest-paid actors, collecting $89.4 million between June 1, 2018, and June 1, 2019.

READ MORE | Marvel Money: How Six Avengers Made $340 Million Last Year

“It has to be audience first. What does the audience want, and what is the best scenario that we can create that will send them home happy?” Johnson told Forbes in 2018.

It seems he makes the audience happy. Johnson has landed a pay formula as close to the famed twenty-twenty deal of yore as any star can get these days. He’ll collect an upfront salary of up to $23.5 million—his highest quote yet—for the forthcoming Jumanji: The Next Level.

He also commands up to 15% of the pool from high-grossing franchise movies, including Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which had a worldwide box office of $962.1 million. And he is paid $700,000 per episode for HBO’s Ballers and seven figures in royalties for his line of clothing, shoes and headphones with Under Armour.

READ MORE | ‘Black Panther’: All The Box Office Records It Broke (And Almost Broke) In Its $235M Debut

While Johnson’s deal is the biggest in the business right now, he’s not the only one with a lucrative deal. Robert Downey Jr. gets $20 million upfront and nearly 8% of the pool for his role as Iron Man, and that amounted to about $55 million for his work in Avengers: Endgame, which grossed $2.796 billion at the box office. 

That gross was so big that it secured spots on this year’s top-earner list for Chris Hemsworth, Bradley Cooper and Paul Rudd, in addition to Downey; together, they earned $284 million, with most of that coming from the franchise. 

“Celebrities such as Downey and (Scarlett) Johansson currently have extreme leverage to demand enormous compensation packages from studios investing hundreds of millions of dollars in making tent-pole films, such as The Avengers series,” entertainment lawyer David Chidekel of Early Sullivan Wright Gizer & McRae told Forbes. 

READ MORE | Worldwide Box Office, The Best It’s Ever Been

Cooper is the rare actor who can thank a bet on himself for his 2019 ranking. The actor earned only about 10% of his $57 million payday for voicing Rocket Raccoon in Avengers. 

Seventy percent came from A Star Is Born, the smaller musical drama that he directed, produced, cowrote and starred in with Lady Gaga. The movie was a passion project for Cooper, and he forfeited any upfront salary to go into the film and Gaga’s salary. It paid off—the movie, which had a production budget of only $36 million, grossed $435 million worldwide, leaving Cooper with an estimated $40 million. 

The full list is below. Earnings estimates are based on data from Nielsen, ComScore, Box Office Mojo and IMDB, as well as interviews with industry insiders. All figures are pretax; fees for agents, managers and lawyers (generally 10%, 15% and 5%, respectively) are not deducted.

The World’s Highest-Paid Actors Of 2019

10. Will Smith

Earnings: $35 million

9. Paul Rudd

Earnings: $41 million

8. Chris Evans

Earnings: $43.5 million

6. Adam Sandler (tie)

Earnings: $57 million

6. Bradley Cooper (tie)

Earnings: $57 million

5. Jackie Chan

Earnings: $58 million

4. Akshay Kumar

Earnings: $65 million

3. Robert Downey Jr.

Earnings: $66 million

2. Chris Hemsworth

Earnings: $76.4 million

1. Dwayne Johnson

-Madeline Berg; Forbes

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Comedian Jim Gaffigan Rakes In $30 Million By Ditching Netflix And Betting On Himself

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Gripping a lukewarm Heineken, Jim Gaffigan hunches his six-foot-one frame over a peeling table in the green room of the An Grianán Theatre in Letterkenny, Ireland. Summer nights are never terribly hot in these parts, but this one is warm enough to need some air conditioning, which the theater almost never uses. It’s hardly a glamorous moment. But then again, glamour isn’t really his thing.

“There’s nothing sexy about Jim Gaffigan,” he says, sweat dotting his brow. “I’m not young. I don’t have a full head of hair. I’m out of shape. I don’t talk about having dinner with Kanye.”

Fortunately for him, he is funny. Just ask the more than 300,000 people in 15 countries who’ve paid an average of $56 to see his latest routine. For the 53-year-old father of five, it’s been a grueling schedule: more than 75 cities in the past year, including whistle-stops like Letterkenny, a northern community of 20,000 that was once lauded as the Republic’s “tidiest town.”

READ MORE | Trevor Noah Is Laughing All The Way To The Bank

They may not offer much sizzle, but places like this are the lifeblood of Gaffigan’s business. He has raked in $30 million this year, putting him at No. 3 on Forbes’ list of the highest-earning stand-up comedians. Half of that was earned by putting “butts in seats.”

The rest comes from spreading his punch lines far and wide. And in this business, if those jokes are funny enough—and your reach wide enough—you can fill a lot of seats with a lot of butts. With the right distribution deal, those jokes can deliver exponential returns. But that’s where it gets a bit tricky.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting,” Gaffigan says. “So you’d better be building a new house.”  

Gaffigan’s been building. In 2016, he agreed to partner with Netflix, the industry’s dominant force and home to original specials from all but one of the comedians on Forbes’ ranking. Last year he cut loose from the kingmaker and placed a bigger bet on himself, pairing up with Comedy Dynamics, an independent producer, to release his next special everywhere but Netflix. 

Gaffigan will star in the first original stand-up special on Amazon, which is going after the streaming giant with a push into comedy. Quality Time goes live today, and it can be shopped on the open streaming market when its exclusive run with Amazon Prime Video is up in two years. And that market is only expanding.

Gaffigan has learned a bit about home building in the entertainment industry. He cut his teeth on the club circuit in the early 1990s, when HBO was the primary destination for stand-up specials and Comedy Central was a fledgling cable network.

READ MORE | Executive Travel: Mpho Popps’ Ghana

In 2000, he landed what was then the holy grail of comedy success—a broadcast sitcom—which was the source of the fortunes the creators of Seinfeld and Roseanne minted once they had enough seasons on the air and could sell the series into syndication.

Gaffigan’s shot proved to be short-lived, but six years later he scored a second chance and headlined a Comedy Central special called Beyond the Pale. This time it paid dividends, landing him his first theater show a month later. The butts were now coming to the seats, and while his rise was live, in person, with microphone in hand, his breakout was digital.

At the time, YouTube was changing the rules of the game, providing comedians a global platform with unprecedented distribution. Then Twitter emerged, giving comedy bookers a real-time assessment of who was attracting audiences.

READ MORE | The World’s Highest-Paid Comedians Of 2018

Then came the debut of streaming on Netflix, which latched onto comedy as a cheap and effective way to lure subscribers, while some, notably the now disgraced Louis C.K., used streaming to control their own distribution, making their shows available for fans to purchase directly.

“It was a technological wave that crashed over the stand-up world,” says Wayne Federman, a comedian and professor of the history of stand-up at the University of Southern California. “And we’re still all trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Gaffigan’s first original Netflix special aired in 2017, long after the company had reshaped the industry. It was a promising place to be: Aziz Ansari and Ali Wong were propelled into superstar status through their Netflix specials, while household names like Dave Chappelle and Jerry Seinfeld reportedly cashed in with $60 million (Chappelle) and $100 million (Seinfeld) paydays in exchange for long-term, multi-program deals. Gaffigan’s first special, Cinco, sold for a more modest seven-figure sum.

Jim Gaffigan stand up comedy specials for Netflix and Amazon Original
COURTESY

It was more than just a check; it was access to a potential audience of nearly 94 million. Although Netflix’s subscriber base has grown since then, so has its stand-up library. The platform now shops nearly four times the number of original stand-up specials than when Cinco debuted.

That makes it harder to stand out in the scroll. Plus, the streamer often holds onto specials in perpetuity, including Cinco. The up-front money is nice, but there is no ability to earn on the back end. 

Gaffigan used his next special, 2018’s Noble Ape, which was directed and cowritten by his wife, Jeannie Gaffigan, to test the waters. Comedy Dynamics bought the rights and made it available everywhere Netflix wasn’t. It had a theatrical release and could be purchased and rented on multiple services, including  iTunes, YouTube and Walmart’s VUDU.

Later, there were short streaming windows on Comedy Central and Amazon Prime. According to Comedy Dynamics CEO Brian Volk-Weiss, it was even syndicated to planes and cruise ships. The up-front payment to Gaffigan from Comedy Dynamics was lower than at Netflix, but the wide distribution allowed him to earn on the back end, bringing in a total of $10 million, according to Forbes estimates.

READ MORE | Burna Boy’s The African Giant Debuts On The Daily Show With Trevor Noah

And new services are on the way from Apple, WarnerMedia, NBCUniversal and Disney, any one of which could choose to pursue cheap-to-produce and popular stand-up specials. 

Because of this widening field, stand-up specials may have more life (and revenue) in them, and that could be good for comedians looking to gamble on their success with deals that offer back-end participation. “We have titles in our library that are making more in year 12 than they made in year one,” says Volk-Weiss, whose company also owns specials by Bob Saget, Iliza Shlesinger and Janeane Garofalo.

Still, leaving Netflix means walking away from a partner that has now established itself as a formidable entertainment company. Netflix has some 180 original hour-long stand-up specials and is singularly focused on exploiting content around the world. Gaffigan, though, is content to keep the bet on himself.

“In the entertainment industry, every house is made of ice and it’s melting. So you’d better be building a new house.”

In the stuffy backstage room in Letterkenny, Gaffigan reviews some of the new material he tried out on stage. A joke about Ireland’s nonsensical roads killed it. He stumbled with a bit about the English. The classics played well—“My dad never went to a parent-teacher conference; my dad didn’t know I went to school.”  

And he’s well aware that Amazon’s core mission is to sell stuff, even though it has won critical acclaim for shows like The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Transparent. With plans to deliver three more specials over the next five years, he’s got time to see just how good a partner the retailer might be. Along the way, he may decide it’s time to find a new neighborhood.

“The reason I went to Amazon is to expand my audience,” he says. “I don’t know what they’re gonna do and I don’t fully understand their marketing might. I might be pleasantly surprised. I mean, it’s a huge corporation. They could probably make more selling socks.”

-Ariel Shapiro; Forbes

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