The National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) chief John Fithian is more than a little disappointed in Netflix's limited theatrical release of Martin Scorsese's The Irishman. The movie sees Robert de Niro and Joe Pesci reteam with Scorsese and adds Al Pacino into the mix. There is an intense buzz about the movie and for good reason. These are some of the biggest names in cinema history, yet it's barely going to play in any movie theaters across North America, which Fithian calls a "disgrace."
NATO's John Fithian claims that Netflix is leaving "significant money on the table," over their theatrical handling of The Irishman. Additionally, he argues that the streaming platform could be gobbled up by the competition when it comes to the future of theatrical screenings and streaming content. Fithian had this to say about the Martin Scorsesee movie and its lack of distribution.
"It's a very big disappointment. 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. Netflix still has time to course correct and accommodate filmmakers who want a real theatrical release. If they don't, their competitors surely will."
And by competitors, John Fithian is referring to Disney+, Hulu, Amazon, Apple, and more, who are likely watching situations like this very closely. The original content and movie theater component is still relatively in its infancy. Netflix is handling The Irishman similarly to how they did with Alfonso Cuarón's Roma, which was released in limited theaters 21 days before it began streaming. Martin Scorsese's latest will begin streaming on November 27th. Netflix's head of original projects, Scott Stuber isn't worried about Fithian's comments. He explains.
"For The Irishman, it was important for us to give it that theatrical run, to put it in big houses where people could congregate and have the opportunity to see it that way. But I also think people are going to love it just as much on Netflix."
The Irishman was quite expensive to make with an estimated budget of $160 million. Having the movie roll out to theaters in a traditional way more than likely would have helped out in making at least some of that money back. From an outsiders perspective, it seems odd that Netflix wouldn't want to have the movie out in a wider release before it begins streaming later this month.
With that being said, Roma ended up taking home multiple Academy Awards and was nominated for Best Picture. While the movie played in over 1,100 theaters, Netflix never reported how much money it had made during its theatrical run. Whatever the case may be, the streaming platform seems to be betting on The Irishman having a big impact at next year's Academy Awards and that gamble may end up paying off in the end. The New York Times was the first to report on The Irishman limited theatrical release.