Now the calendar has flipped into November, it's but a matter of weeks before Martin Scorsese's highly-anticipated The Irishman hits Netflix. It's a scenario that's a first for many involved. On one hand, it's Scorsese's first major foray into streaming; on the other, it's arguably the single-largest feature film the streaming giant has to release. As more and more studios put a bigger emphasis on streaming, the box office grows more frustrated — even more so when discussing Scorsese's latest Oscar-capable film. In a scathing report from the New York Times, theaters exhibitors have gone public with their disdain of Netflix's distribution of the film, something one figurehead calls a "disgrace."
As with its Oscar-winning Roma last year, Netflix has started screening select features in theaters on a very limited release, something at the root of this current stalemate. According to the Times, most major theater distributors insist on features receiving a period of exclusivity that lasts no less than 72 days; Netflix reportedly wouldn't go any longer than a 45-day exclusivity so the film would be able to reach its November 27 release on the streaming giant. Because of that, Netflix will only open The Irishman on eight screens this weekend between New York City and Los Angeles. Next weekend, the streamer will expand the movie's theatrical release to an additional eight markets, still only showing on a meager one-tenth of potential screens in the United States.
"It's a disgrace," National Association of Theater Owners president John Fithian told the Times. "It's a very big disappointment that Netflix and the leading theater owners couldn't figure out a way to put a significant movie from Martin Scorsese on a lot of screens."
Fithian's organization represents the likes of AMC Theaters, the country's largest theater chain, and Cineplex. "This is a major director, a cinephile, who has made all kinds of important movies for our industry. And The Irishman is going to play on one-tenth of the screens it should have played on, had Netflix been willing to come to an understanding with our members," Fithian continued.
Taking Alfonso Cuarón's Roma as an example, the three-time Oscar winner only had an exclusive release window of 21 days before it was released on Netflix. Throughout its theatrical run, the Spanish-language reportedly grossed just $5.1 million across 1,100 screens — only 250 of which were in the United States. In comparison, a major blockbuster like Avengers: Endgame screened in 4,662 theaters domestically at its widest release.
The Irishman is now in select markets ahead of its Netflix streaming debut on November 27th.