Scorsese’s latest Oscar contender gets caught in the ‘streaming wars’ crossfire

Netflix wants movies that it bankrolls to stream right away, but movie chains like AMC want them go through theatrical release.


August 22, 2019

When Scorsese proposed his latest film, “The Irishman,” he went to one of the few production studios that wouldn’t bat an eye at his $159m budget: Netflix. 

This time, he’s pulling out all the stops: Sure, it has Robert De Niro, but the guy also brought Joe Pesci out of retirement to play a mobster — hell, he even threw in Ray Romano for a little spice.

Now, it’s uncertain whether the Oscar contender the The New York Times dubbed his “grandest statement yet on the intersection of organized crime and American politics” (AKA “The Departed” on steroids), will ever see a major theater.

Netflix wants gold men, but it wants green men more

Dollars. We’re talking about dollars, people. Netflix’s core streaming business is still the #1 priority and it’s not going to let an ego trip like a major theater release distract from its mission of screen domination.

Which is why, when theater chains like AMC and Cineplex demanded the conventional 3-month exclusive before releasing “The Irishman” for streaming, Netflix told them to stick it where the sun don’t shine.

After all, NYT writes that “95% of movies stop earning their keep in theaters at the 42-day mark, well short of the three-month window demanded by major chains.”

In a world… where movies are released straight to Netflix

Netflix has worked with independent theater chains like Alamo Drafthouse and on exclusive theater releases for larger pictures like “Bird Box” (one week) and Oscar winner “Roma” (21 days).

But, Netflix spent $12 billion on original content in 2018, and you can bet it’s squeezing every view per dollar that it possibly can. It has the cash, it has the reach — now it’s trying to change the way the movie industry works completely through sheer force of clout.

Planned for a September 27th festival premier, it’s still unclear where viewers will be able to watch the film. And still, no one has answered the biggest question of all: Is Ray Romano making a comeback?

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