Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman will not be receiving a wide theatrical release. The much-anticipated film stars Scorsese mainstays Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and features Al Pacino in his first Scorsese role. The Irishman has been scrutinized for the past year, not only for its ballooning budget (said to be near $200 million in some trades) or its special effects (featuring a De Niro de-aged by 30 years) but also for its theatrical release plans.
Originally set up at Paramount Pictures, The Irishman soon moved to Netflix due to executives’ concerns over its price tag. Scorsese, a long time cinephile and supporter of the cinematic experience, wished to give the film as wide a release as possible. However, despite a year of negotiations, Netflix was unable to convince larger theater chains such as Regal or AMC to accept a shorter release window. Normally, theaters prefer a 90 day period between a film’s release and its availability on home video, a stance that runs counter to Netflix’s belief in instant availability.
Instead, The Irishman will follow a release pattern similar to last year’s Roma, directed by Alfonso Cuaron: a limited release in New York and Los Angeles on November 1. What will is a staggered rollout across different cities in America with theater chains that are more friendly to the Netflix model, such as Landmark and the Alamo Drafthouse. Finally, the film will be released on November 27 on Netflix’s streaming platform.
There has been much bad blood between Netflix and theater chains in the past, but there were hopes that a new Martin Scorsese picture could help smooth out certain tensions they held. However, this development shows that relationships remain strained.