It turns out that the alignment of legends Martin Scorsese, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci and Robert De Niro isn’t enough to get top theater chains to take Netflix’s The Irishman in for screening.
The film centers around Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran (De Niro), a hitman who is reminiscing on his life and mob career. This involves a reflection on the 1975 disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino), a friend and former president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. The film follows the interwoven lives of these men over 30 years, a plot which necessitated VFX de-aging technology for De Niro, Pacino and Pesci. Other cast members include Harvey Keitel, Ray Romano, Bobby Cannavale, Anna Paquin, Stephen Graham, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Jack Huston, Kathrine Narducci, Jesse Plemons, Domenick Lombardozzi, Paul Herman, Gary Basaraba and Marin Ireland. These many layers of life and characters embedded into the film equate to the substantial secrecy in which the film has been shrouded, although details on the film’s running time—and the obstacles it faces—have started to arise.
The Irishman will have its world premiere on Sept. 27 at the New York Film Festival, where it will run for its full three and a half hours without intermission. The gangster epic is setting new records for Scorsese (of a different kind from The Wolf of Wall Street, which set the record for most f-bombs in any film). At 210 minutes, The Irishman is Scorsese’s longest film to date and the longest mainstream American narrative film in decades, as IndieWire observes. Long movies typically translate to limited theatrical showings, and with the added variable of Netflix planning to release the movie on streaming the same month, theaters have been skeptical to take on the film as it violates their typical three-month theatrical window.
reports the movie will be released in select theaters in Los Angeles and New York on Nov. 1, followed by a platform release in both the U.S. and U.K. Nov. 8, adding more theaters each weekend before it’s available to stream on Netflix Nov. 27, when it will also see “an expanded theatrical release in the U.S. and international markets.” What exactly that means is unclear. Also according to IndieWire, the film will likely be available at a limited number of independent theaters, as Netflix was was unable to reach an exhibition deal with AMC and Cineplex. Regal and Cinemark were not in negotiations with Netflix. Independent exhibitions typically translate to a costly distribution that will only add to the already-enormous budget, which is reported at $160 million.
The first teaser for The Irishman (without any actual footage) was shown in February during the 91st Academy Awards, followed by a true teaser earlier this summer. There’s no doubt the film is seeking to pick up some Oscars at the 92nd show next year.
With an impressive cast, huge budget and plenty of anticipation built up for this Scorsese passion project, it feels ironic that The Irishman will primarily be available on small screens. If you’re lucky, you can see De Niro “paint houses” on Nov. 1 on the big screen, or in the weeks that follow as the film trickles into the theaters it can find. Until then, (or Nov. 27, for those set on streaming), the teaser trailer is available below.