Martin Scorsese is currently filming his upcoming gangster movie “The Irishman” in and around New York City with a cast that includes Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Ray Romano, but the answer as to whether or not audiences will get to see the film on the big screen still remains open-ended. Netflix is still refusing to confirm or deny “The Irishman” will be getting a theatrical release. “It’s premature to say anything at this point,” Netflix’s head of film publicity Julie Fontaine recently told Variety.
Considering Scorsese is an outspoken proponent of theatrical exhibition, it’s surprising the streaming giant is refusing to confirm a theatrical release for the movie. Sources close to production say the negotiation between Scorsese’s team and Netflix resulted in a commitment from the streaming giant to release the movie in theaters for at least two weeks, but the company has not made these plans official. A two-week theatrical release would allow “The Irishman” to qualify for Oscars, which is a strategy Netflix has used for potential awards players like “Okja,” “The Meyerowitz Stories,” and “Mudbound,” which hits Netflix and opens in 17 theaters across the country on November 17.
IndieWire first reported in February that Scorsese was bringing “The Irishman” to Netflix after Paramount withdrew from the movie because of the budget, which was hitting $100 million because of the special effects required to make Robert De Niro appear 30 years younger in certain portions of the movie. Originally Paramount was going to handle domestic rights, with STX Entertainment taking international rights, but the budget kept rising.
Producer Gaston Pavlovich tells Variety the budget is now at $125 million and “could go over that.” The $125 million mark would make “The Irishman” one of the most expensive movies Scorsese has ever made, unadjusted for inflation. The reported budgets for “Gangs of New York” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” were $100 million, while “The Aviator” came in at $110 million. Only “Hugo” currently has a bigger budget right now, having cost in the $150-$170 million range.
“We quickly realized that that Marty and De Niro really thought that the aging process was going to be a very important aspect of this film” Pavlovich said. “The traditional [business] model was not going to work with this new vision of the project, and that’s when we entered conversations with Netflix.”
Pavlovich says “The Irishman” would only have been able to be made with Netflix’s involvement. “The market and the dynamics of the market would not give us the possibility,” he said. “We would have had to do a box office similar to ‘The Wolf of Wall Street,’ or even better than that, to have something even close to a return. And that movie had Leo DiCaprio and sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll….This is different, and Marty knew it.”
Netflix is expected to release “The Irishman” in theaters somehow. Shortly after the movie took up shop at Netflix, Scorsese slammed the home-viewing experience in a conversation at the BFI Southbank in London
“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. 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.”
“The Irishman” is targeting a 2019 release.