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As the debate over streaming vs. cinema rages on, at least one party is laughing all the way to the bank. After negotiations between theater owners and Netflix broke down over the rights to show The Irishman, fans hoping to see the film on the big screen were left with limited options. And as a result, the few tickets that are available are selling for sky-high prices online.
Martin Scorsese’s newest film officially hit theaters, albeit only in New York City and Los Angeles, on November 1. The Irishman will open in eight other markets before it hits Netflix on November 27, but fans on both coasts quickly snapped up all the available tickets for this weekend’s showings. And as a result, the resale value for those tickets is $90 on sites like StubHub. Even though the film is being shown in luxurious theaters like the Belasco Theatre on Broadway, that’s a hefty price -- and it’s unclear how many people will actually be willing to pay it.
The supply and demand issues surrounding The Irishman probably aren’t a surprise to theater owners, who were not shy about expressing their disappointment at the film’s lack of availability. Earlier this week, John Fithian, President of the National Association of Theater Owners, took Netflix to task for limiting the film’s release. He called the move a "disgrace," and said the platform was not willing to extend the amount of time that theaters around the country would have exclusive rights to show the film.
Whether or not streaming platforms can really be called cinema is an ongoing debate that likely won’t calm down any time soon, and Netflix is most certainly at the center of it. They’ve previously battled theaters over the timing of when they can screen their films, offering the rights only when the films are already streaming. Earlier this year, AMC Theaters did not screen Alfonso Cuaron’s Roma -- also a Netflix film -- along with the rest of the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture. Indie chain Alamo Drafthouse also chose not to screen the film, citing difficulties in negotiations.
Thus far, Martin Scorsese hasn’t commented on the kerfuffle surrounding The Irishman’s limited cinematic release (he’s been busy weighing the merits of the Marvel Cinematic Universe). But he has defended his decision to bring the widely acclaimed film to the streaming service, citing the creative control he had over the production (and their willingness to foot the film’s huge budget when other studios wouldn’t). Like Roma, The Irishman will most certainly be an awards contender this year -- which means that unless theaters and Netflix can get on the same page, film fans may once again be left in a lurch come Oscar season.