It looks like Martin Scorsese’s next movie may not get a theatrical release. The Irishman, which has been trying to get off the ground for nearly a decade, was finally picked up by Netflix, who was willing to put up more than $100 million to get the movie made. The movie brings together Robert DeNiro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, the later of which has been retired from acting for some time, in the same movie for the first time ever. That’s a big deal and has awards potential written all over it. But Netflix is being quiet on whether or not they’re going to give it a theatrical release.
Netflix head of film publicity Julie Fontaine recently said, “it’s premature to say anything at this point,” regarding the streaming service’s release strategy for The Irishman. That certainly doesn’t mean that a theatrical release is off the table, especially since the movie isn’t expected to arrive until late 2018 in time for awards season consideration, but it’s not the most encouraging statement. This is the kind of movie many cinephiles are going to want to see in a theater. Including Martin Scorsese.
The fact that a man so dedicated to the idea of preserving film and cinema, such as Martin Scorsese, is even making a movie for Netflix is a big deal. But it’s said that the director made sure Netflix provided a commitment for a theatrical release in 2019 for The Irishman. The problem is, even if it does get one, it will likely hit a select few theaters on the same day the movie arrives on Netflix, mostly to qualify for the Academy Awards. Netflix is hardly concerned with box office at this point.
The Irishman is based on Charles Brandt’s 2003 book, I Heard You Paint Houses, about Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran’s career as a hitman. Robert De Niro is playing Frank Sheeran, who is said to have been involved in the death of Jimmy Hoffa, who is being portrayed by Al Pacino. Joe Pesci, who is coming out of retirement for the movie, plays Russell Bufalino, a Sicilian crime lord who, at one point, ran the entire East Coast mob operation. Harvey Keitel is also set to star in the movie as another Sicilian mafia boss named Angelo Bruno. Frank Sheeran managed to keep his life as a hitman a secret from his family, only confessing his crimes to author Charles Brandt before his death in 2003.
Though The Irishman has a lot of appeal, at a reported $125 million, it’s tough for studios to justify spending that kind of money for this type of movie. This isn’t going to make Iron Man money. Just look at what happened to Martin Scorsese’s Silence. That makes Netflix an essential partner for movies like The Irishman in the future. But as Variety notes, there’s a possible cost associated that for those who like seeing these movies in a theater.