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Now that it’s finally been released, the excitement surrounding Martin Scorsese’s new film, The Irishman, is at an all time high. But only a lucky few will be able to see it on the big screen. And according to prominent theater owners, it’s not only a disgrace -- it’s all Netflix’s fault.
According to John Fithian, the President of the National Association of Theater Owners, negotiations with the streaming platform dissolved when the two sides couldn’t agree on a timeframe that the film could be shown exclusively in theaters. The Irishman will be available for streaming on Netflix beginning on November 27. Before then, just eight theaters in New York City and Los Angeles will be screening the film. John Fithian told The New York Times he blames Netflix for the film’s limited availability to fans, explaining:
It’s a disgrace. 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. 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.
There’s been a lot of debate about where Netflix fits into the movie industry. Directors like Martin Scorsese and Alfonso Cuaron have embraced the platform as a legitimate distributor, while naysayers like Christopher Nolan and Quentin Tarantino believe there’s a dividing line between films that receive cinematic releases and those that don’t. Even The Irishman’s stars, Al Pacino and Ray Romano, are proponents of seeing films on the big screen. John Fithian also spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, and argued that Netflix messed up a chance to expand its horizons, stating:
Netflix is facing a challenge to their business model for the first time and missed a strategic opportunity. They are competing now for subscribers and filmmakers with companies with deep pockets, deep libraries and multiple ways to reach consumers. They sent a signal to filmmakers that even if you’re Martin Scorsese, you won’t get the wide theatrical release you want through Netflix.
Martin Scorsese defended his decision to bring The Irishman to Netflix after Paramount passed on it, stating that he would take the opportunity to make the $159 million film without creative interference, even if it meant it wouldn’t see a wide release. And though Netflix is facing backlash for how it’s chosen to distribute The Irishman, the film itself is earning spectacular reviews from critics. And that’s another win for a platform that’s trying to solidify itself as a home for great movies -- big screen or no big screen.