Adam Epstein on Netflix securing the rights
to distribute The Irishman
, the new Martin Scorsese film starring his longtime collaborator Robert De Niro:
The surprising deal is as much a microcosm of Netflix’s emergence in Hollywood as it is a reflection of the major studios’ reticence to dole out cash for risky, non-tentpole films. Paramount’s last collaboration with Scorsese—the filmmaker’s spiritual passion project Silence
—was a critical success but a box office disaster
, earning just $7 million in the US on a $40 million budget. Scorsese’s planned $100 million budget for The Irishman
was likely far too big of a gamble for Paramount to make.
Yes, we now apparently live in a world where Scorsese + De Niro is a “gamble”. Just how bad was the last year for Paramount? This bad
To that end, Scorsese will have all the creative (and financial) freedom he wants at Netflix. The streaming service has cavernously deep pockets, and is known not to meddle with auteurs—especially someone as iconic as Scorsese. With Netflix, Scorsese will get to make the movie he wants to make, with as much money as he needs to make it.
But that also means the film is unlikely to receive a traditional theatrical release. Unlike Amazon, Netflix’s streaming rival which releases its films in theaters before they appear online, Netflix releases the films it distributes online the same day as in theaters. Several major theaters have boycotted Netflix’s strategy, maintaining that it depresses turnout if viewers can watch a new release online in the comfort of their own homes, rather than spend money to see it at a theater.
I’d be pretty surprised if Netflix didn’t have some sort of bigger theatrical release for this film as well – well, if the theaters allow it. Then again, Netflix does surprising things, and it seems to work more often than not
. (Hopefully this isn’t a Qwikster