Netflix is taking the "go big or go home" adage to heart with their unique release plan for Martin Scorsese's The Irishman.
The awards contender will have a limited engagement at the historic Belasco Theatre on Broadway, making Netflix's Oscar buzz-y movie the first film to ever screen at the Belasco in its 112-year history. The Irishman, starring Robert De Niro as the titular mob assassin from the days of Jimmy Hoffa, will run from November 1 to December 1. (It's ironic that the streaming giant and theatrical experience "disruptor" is opting to screen the film in the biggest venue possible when their bread and butter is binging on the couch.)
Netflix's press release touted that the company, in a deal with the Shubert Organization, will refit the Belasco with "state-of-the-art" equipment for the screenings. As Collider points out, this is a key step for the film to take on its way to potential Oscar glory. Since "The Irishman isn't welcome at major theater chains like AMC, there’s sure to be high demand in New York for the epic Mafia tale."
The three-and-a-half hour drama, which also stars Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Anna Paquin, recently had its premiere at the New York Film Festival, where critics praised it as a "masterpiece."
What You Can Learn
Despite certain movie studio pundits' well-informed wolf cries, the theatrical experience isn't going extinct. It may be shrinking and evolving with the times and trends, but it is not going away anytime soon. Especially if the company credited with causing that feared extinction is making a gesture like this to get into the game.
Moreover, a Scorsese movie deserves a big screen experience. While his films may lack the CG spectacle of Marvel's or other four-quadrant, IP blockbusters jockeying for our box office, they do offer a legendary filmmaker's narrative and visual style best seen for the first time in a movie theater. Like Nolan or Spielberg or Tarantino, Scorsese is a brand onto himself. Every thing he makes is an event. Even his lesser, more commercial fare (see Shutter Island). If anyone can challenge and change how a company like Netflix does business or make them re-engage with the value of the theatrical experience, it's the guy who gave us Goodfellas and Taxi Driver.
Movies like this, for adults, can make a big comeback in the studio system if The Irishman is as critically and commercially successful as Netflix hopes it will be. We will find out when The Irishman opens in select theaters on Nov. 1