Netflix may give Martin Scorsese's upcoming crime drama The Irishman a wide theatrical release later this year. The streaming giant is coming off a very successful awards season, as their expensive campaign for Alfonso Cuarón's Roma netted 10 Oscar nominations at the 91st Academy Awards (tied for the most of any movie this year) and wins in Best Director and Best Foreign Language Film. The sheer number of accolades Roma picked up on the circuit indicated Netflix could be a serious player in the Oscar race moving forward. It wasn't any coincidence a TV spot for The Irishman aired during last weekend's Oscars broadcast.
With the legendary Scorsese directing an all-star cast that includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel, The Irishman certainly has the makings of a major awards contender, and Netflix will surely take the necessary steps to help it land key nominations. It's already been confirmed the film will play in theaters before it becomes available to stream (Academy rules dictate eligible films need to play for at least one week in Los Angeles County), but it may break from the norm in regards to your typical Netflix film.
According to THR, Scorsese is pushing for The Irishman to receive a wide theatrical release. Netflix is currently having conversations with theater owners to figure out the terms of such an arrangement. Nothing is confirmed at this point in time, but two important stipulations are that The Irishman would have to play for more than three weeks and Netflix would permit the reporting of box office earnings.
Scorsese's desire to see his latest hit multiplexes is understandable. He's long been a lover of cinema and firmly believes films should be seen in the theater. Though he knew going into production on The Irishman it would be a Netflix release, he more than likely approached like any of his other projects and shot it for the big screen. That being said, Netflix may have some trepidation about this. The Irishman is already an expensive endeavor due to its extensive visual effects work, and the price of wide distribution will only add to those costs. Granted, a Scorsese crime drama is a commercially viable proposition (The Wolf of Wall Street made $392 million worldwide) and would likely do solid business at the box office. Its gross would depend on how much time there is between the theatrical premiere and streaming date. If it's a few months, then everyone from die-hard film buffs to casual viewers will have to seek out screenings to see what The Irishman is all about.
It'll be interesting to see how this situation unfolds as 2019 progresses. A lot of film industry professionals feel threatened by Netflix's model and what it means for the future of the movie business, which is one of the reasons why Green Book topped Roma for Best Picture this year. With their slate of prestige projects (Netflix just landed Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods), the streaming service is clearly determined to make some noise in the Oscars game, and they may have to change a few things in order to fully land in the Academy's good graces. The Irishman would be as good a place as any to start.