Netflix and Theater Chains Are Struggling to Strike a Deal for 'The Irishman' Theatrical Release

Another year, another battle between Netflix and movie theater chains over a possible awards contender getting a wide theatrical release. Last year, it was Roma that didn’t play in any major theater chains due to Netflix’s desire to get the film on streaming as soon as possible but still meet the desires of director Alfonso Cuarón, who wanted his movie to play on the big screen. This year, it’s Martin Scorsese and his return to mob drama with The Irishman that’s creating a stir between Netflix and movie theater chains.

If you haven’t been keeping up, The Irishman is Martin Scorsese’s new movie starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci, who came out of retirement for the film. Here’s how the story is described by Netflix:

The Irishman is an epic saga of organized crime in post-war America told through the eyes of World War II veteran Frank Sheeran, a hustler and hitman who worked alongside some of the most notorious figures of the 20th century. Spanning decades, the film chronicles one of the greatest unsolved mysteries in American history, the disappearance of legendary union boss Jimmy Hoffa, and offers a monumental journey through the hidden corridors of organized crime: its inner workings, rivalries and connections to mainstream politics.

Slated to premiere at the New York Film Festival on September 27, the film doesn’t yet have a release date on Netflix or in theaters, and now we know why. The New York Times has an extensive story on the struggle between Netflix and movie theater chains AMC Theatres and Canada’s Cineplex to come to an agreement over the theatrical rollout for The Irishman.

With a budget of $159 million, largely thanks to the de-aging special effects needed for the film’s stars, the film was never going to find a studio willing to take a risk on a movie like that. But Netflix stepped up to bat, prepared to give Martin Scorsese all the money, time and room he needed to make his latest film. However, the streaming service still finds itself challenged to give the film the theatrical release that Scorsese wants, thanks to the old school distribution traditions that movie theaters are clinging to in the age of fast home video release.

Apparently, the negotiations have been going on for months. Talks for a deal even fell apart back in July, but two weeks ago, the theater chains and Netflix were at it again, with each of the chains working on separate deals with the streaming service. But clearly AMC Theatres and Cineplex see that The Irishman would be a movie that brings a lot of people into theaters. After all, Martin Scorsese hasn’t done a mob movie since The Departed in 2006, and that won Best Picture. Plus, there’s the excitement of the filmmaker reuniting with his GoodFellas and Casino stars Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and throwing Al Pacino into the mix only sweetens the deal.

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