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Part of what has been fascinating about Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman is how much of the discussion has been devoted not to the content of the film itself (which is by all accounts excellent), but the circumstances surrounding its creation, how long it took to get made, the de-aging technology employed and the way in which it is being distributed. And you can’t talk about The Irishman without discussing its budget, because the amount of money spent is really intense.
The budget for Martin Scorsese’s three-and-a-half hour crime epic is an eye-watering $175 million. This figure, as cited in a feature by The Hollywood Reporter about the making of the film, is very high in general, not to mention unheard of for a film in this genre and outside of the blockbuster realm. The Irishman’s $175 million budget is also considerably higher than where earlier reports had it pegged.
Earlier reports indicated that Netflix committed $125 million to make the Martin Scorsese film, but that its budget had ballooned well past that number to $140 million, with the potential to climb even higher. Well, climb higher it did, because even more recent estimates of $160 million fell short of the mark. The Irishman cost $175 million, and that’s just for production. It doesn’t take into account marketing costs (which are likely different than a traditional theatrical release).
To put that number into perspective, that is the same budget that Steven Spielberg’s virtual reality, science fiction spectacular Ready Player One sported. It’s more than Spider-Man: Far From Home’s $160 million and more than the $170 million budgets for Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom and Alita: Battle Angel.
And it’s not far off from the $178 million for Mission: Impossible Fallout, the $180 million for Thor: Ragnarok or the $185 million for Terminator: Dark Fate. Those films were all theatrical, franchise blockbusters; all those descriptors can’t really be applied to The Irishman. Yet, while Martin Scorsese’s film does not have cyborgs, dinosaurs or digital paradises, it still needed a big budget to get made.
A big reason that Martin Scorsese, an evangelist of the theatrical experience, took The Irishman to Netflix, was the film’s large budget. The director tried for a long time to get the movie made, but he needed a lot of money to tell the story the way he wanted, namely by using de-aging technology on his lead actors. He couldn’t find that money in Hollywood outside of the streaming giant, and given this budget, it’s not hard to see why.
Netflix won’t be recouping as much of that money as it might have had it foregone its streaming priority ethos and given The Irishman a wider theatrical release, but it still looks like $175 million well spent. The Irishman has received widespread critical acclaim, and by most accounts, it looks like Netflix got a masterpiece for its money. And you can’t put a price on Oscar gold, which The Irishman is sure to be in contention for next year.