Scorsese’s “Irishman” Hits Potential Legal Snag

Earlier this week came the announcement that Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” was in the midst of working out a worldwide deal with Netflix which will see the streaming service take global rights to the big-budget mob drama.

Paramount Pictures, which had reportedly paid $15 million for U.S. rights, has now sold them back to producer Gaston Pavlovich and his Fabrica de Cine company to enable them to pursue this Netflix deal.

The news raised eyebrows as STX Entertainment had already bought all non-U.S. distribution rights to the film in a $50 million deal at Cannes last year, leaving the obvious question as to whether Netflix had bought out STX’s share or if the deal hadn’t be as iron clad as first thought.

Turns out the news was a surprise to STX too who still hasn’t notified distributors in local markets that their agreements were liable to be canceled. The company released a terse statement through a spokesman to Variety saying: “As a policy, STX does not comment on rumors or matters related to litigation.”

Distributors in several key markets who had already made deals with STX tell the trade they have legally binding distribution contracts in place and expect them to be honored.

The new deal comes after Fabrica de Cine and others lost tens of millions of dollars on Scorsese’s religious drama “Silence” which cost $47 million to produce and tens of millions more to market but has only grossed $7 million in the U.S. and nothing so far overseas where it has yet to open in various key markets.

Its failure has prompted Pavlovich to change the way the production is being mounted. Even so, the production budget of “The Irishman” is reportedly quickly ballooning to $125 million from its originally estimated cost of $100 million because of the complexity of the visual effects work needed to make De Niro look much younger in the film.

It looks like this is going to be a matter for the lawyers to work out.