It’s no secret Martin Scorsese wanted a wide theatrical release for his Netflix gangster period epic “The Irishman,” and Netflix certainly tried to get the film shown wide. The major exhibitors, determined to enforce their three-month theatrical exclusivity window, didn’t let them.
As a result, the acclaimed three-and-a-half-hour opus hits only a handful of cinemas this weekend ahead of its debut on Netflix in a few weeks. The small debut has now given the head of the exhibitor representatives the opportunity to do something those in his field rarely get to do these days – gloat.
“Netflix is facing a challenge to their business model for the first time and missed a strategic opportunity. [This sends ] a signal to filmmakers that even if you’re Martin Scorsese, you won’t get the wide theatrical release you want through Netflix.”
As Scorsese has made clear, Netflix is the only one who would fund the film after all the other studios baulked at the idea, so without them it would not have been made. Netflix also chose not to compromise with cinema chains and push the release of the film on its streaming platform so as to adhere to the traditional U.S. theatrical window.
The upside to all this is the film will arrive on the service sooner and be far more seen around the world than had it gone the regular theatrical route. In addition, as the success of “Roma” showed last year, Oscar voters don’t really care about the streaming vs. exhibitors war.
Two of the film’s actors have spoken about this on The Today Show, with Al Pacino lamenting the lack of cinema experience for the film:
“It’s a different experience. When you’re watching something on television, you know, if you wanted to, you could stop it and take that break. In the movie house, you’re just there. You are sort of prepared for another experience. I think that changes when you’re home. But it’s still great that it’s [in theaters] and we have that… With some of the other films, the bigger, more popular films, the Marvel films, do have that experience. It’s an event the same way a sporting event is an event. They go to it, you’re there.”
Ray Romano is similarly disappointed but happy more will get to see it:
“I think if there’s a movie that is an argument for keeping the theater experience alive, it’s [‘The Irishman’], but the fact that it is on Netflix means that people who can’t see it will be able to see it also.”
“The Irishman” is now out in select theaters, will expand in the upcoming weeks, and then go global online from November 27th.