Martin Scorsese turned heads this week when it was revealed that his $100 million gangster movie “The Irishman” would be moving from Paramount Pictures (which handled the director’s previous four movies) to Netflix.
The move arguably gives the streaming giant its most high-profile release to date, bolstered by the fact it marks Scorsese’s reunion with Robert De Niro, and the shift has forced many in the business to debate what exactly this means for the future of theatrical distribution. After all, Scorsese has long been a proponent of the big screen experience, so it’s hard to make sense of what exactly is attracting him to Netflix in the first place.
Confusing matters even more is a new talk Scorsese gave last night at the BFI Southbank in London, where he wasn’t shy about slamming the home-viewing experience (via Screen Daily). “The problem now is that it is everything around the frame that is distracting,” he told the audience about why watching movies on computer screens is so detrimental to the viewing process.
“Now you can see a film on an iPad,” he continued. “You might be able to push it closer to your [face] in your bedroom, just lock the door and look at it if you can, but I do find just glimpsing stuff here or there, even watching a film at home on a big-screen TV, there is still stuff around the room. There’s a phone that rings. People go by. It is not the best way.”
Scorsese’s thoughts seem to go against the Netflix business model, in which titles are made available online the same day they are released in theaters. If Scorsese wants people to see “The Irishman” on the big screen, it would appear Netflix isn’t the ideal outlet. Just ask the team behind “Beasts of No Nation.” The drama was released on October 16, 2015 in select theaters for an awards-qualifying run and on Netflix globally, but nobody left their homes to go see the movie. (The film grossed just over $90,000 at the U.S. box office, according to Box Office Mojo.)
Netflix definitely allows for a much wider audience than a theatrical release, which could be appealing to Scorsese after his passion-project, “Silence,” proved a dud earlier this year, but it definitely means sacrificing just how many people will actually show up to the theater. Reports say that “The Irishman” will get a Scorsese-approved theatrical release, but it’s safe to assume more people will see it not as the director entails: online and at home.
“The Irishman” is based on the 2003 novel “I Heard You Paint Houses” and centers around gangster Frank Sheeran, who was linked to the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. For more on the movie’s deal with Netflix, head over to Anne Thompson’s exclusive report.