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Netflix’s The Irishman is heading to Broadway, but major theaters unlikely to screen it

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Netflix’s new Martin Scorsese film will screen at the Belasco Theatre in NYC

Image: Netflix

Netflix is planning an unusual showing for Martin Scorsese film The Irishman, amid concern major theater chains will refuse to show the film in due to it arriving on the streaming platform a mere three weeks after its premiere. The company intends to screen it, ahead of its streaming debut on November 27th, at a Broadway theater, Deadline reports.

The Irishman will be shown at the Shubert Organization’s Belasco Theatre in New York City, making it the first movie screening for the 112-year-old institution, from November 1st to December 1st. It will follow a standard Broadway theater schedule, which means eight screenings per week spanning Tuesday to Sunday, with matinee showings on the weekends. Netflix intends to install modern screening equipment for the 1,016-seat theater so it can properly show the film.

“We’ve lost so many wonderful theaters in New York City in recent years, including single house theaters like the Ziegfeld and the Paris,” Scorsese told Deadline in a statement. “The opportunity to recreate that singular experience at the historic Belasco Theatre is incredibly exciting.”

According to Variety, Netflix is also working with smaller indie-friendly chains, like Alamo Drafthouse, to provide The Irishman with slightly more nationwide reach during its limited one-month run, which will coincide with the Belasco event. Netflix tells The Verge it has not announced formal plans for the traditional theatrical run of The Irishman, but it will do so soon. The company would not comment on whether AMC or other major chains intend to screen the movie.

The short theatrical window will allow The Irishman to qualify for the Academy Awards, but any hope the Scorsese epic would make its way to major theaters may be overly optimistic. Standard Hollywood practice is that producers and studios agree to theater chains’ exclusivity agreement that dictates a certain amount of time, typically 90 days, before a movie moves from the silver screen to streaming platforms, Blu-ray, and digital download. That allows both the studio and the theater chain a chance to earn money on screenings of the film in theaters when audiences have no other choice but to see the movie for the price of a ticket stub.

Netflix, on the other hand, typically screens films for a short amount of time prior to offering them on its platform for at-home viewers. Sometimes, Netflix does both simultaneously, something called day-and-date release. That’s created an adversarial relationship between big movie chains and with Netflix, with companies like AMC and Regal parent company Cineworld viewing the streaming platform as an existential threat to the moviegoing business.

That strain has meant headaches for Netflix as it increasingly seeks higher-profile directors and award show prestige, which often requires the company to contort itself to work within the traditional Hollywood model. Yet the crafty ways the company has jumped through eligibility hoops in recent years have earned it the ire of directors like Steven Spielberg and caused a messy withdrawal from the Cannes Film Festival last year after the festival disqualified the company for not meeting French theaters’ more demanding exclusivity requirements.

The Irishman, in particular, marks one of Netflix’s biggest events to date, with the platform nabbing not only Scorsese as director, but also iconic American crime saga actors Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci. In the past, Netflix has used film festivals and independent movie theaters for big award contenders like last year’s Best Picture nominee Roma.

Netflix signaled earlier this year that it was hoping to cut more deals for broader theatrical releases, and the platform even agreed to start showing films in theaters prior to a streaming release in hopes that would help it make inroads in negotiations. But the month-long window may be too short to win over the likes of AMC, Regal, and others.

Update October 9th, 5:05PM ET: Clarified that Netflix’s choice to screen The Irishman at the Belasco Theatre was not related to its ongoing negotiations with theater chains. Netflix has yet to announce what theaters will screen the film during its November 1st to December 1st run. The headline has been updated to reflect this.