‘The Irishman’ Release Has Netflix In Power Struggle With Theaters

Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman has been a long time coming, and I think it’s safe to say this will not be just another movie. Not only should it be an awards contender this season, but Netflix has made it the biggest movie they’ve ever invested in. And of course, they are going to go full tilt in making sure it has every opportunity to succeed…but under their own terms. That’s where they might be running into a problem.

According to The New York Times, Netflix is in the middle of contentious negotiations with some of the biggest theater exhibitors about release plans for The Irishman. Netflix is talking with AMC and Cineplex about a full theatrical release, something the streamer rarely does, before making it available to subscribers shortly thereafter. 

However, most theater chains have a rule that has been in place for a while, stating that no movie they show can be released in any other medium for at least 90 days. Netflix, obviously, doesn’t want to wait that long because it would go against their own business model of making movies available immediately.

The longest Netflix has ever kept one of their films in theaters exclusively is 21 days, and that was for last year’s acclaimed, Oscar-winning drama Roma. Most likely they would want The Irishman to follow a similar strategy.

Theater chains rightly counter that to make an exception for Netflix is to make an exception for all.

“We can only do so, however, on terms that respect AMC’s important and close relationships with our longstanding studio partners, including Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal, Sony, Paramount, Lionsgate and so many other filmmakers who are the lifeblood of our substantial business.”

As for Regal theaters, they aren’t even willing to negotiate with Netflix on this issue, so you definitely won’t be seeing it through them.

There will be a  certain segment of devoted movie fans who will go out of their way to see a Scorsese movie on the big screen. But if there’s an option to just wait a bit longer and watch it on Netflix, I’m guessing most will be just fine with that. However, if Netflix wants to recoup some of that $160M investment, they’re going to need a theatrical component. How this whole situation plays out could change the way movies are distributed, so I’m definitely going to keep my eyes on it.


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