According to an 8.21 N.Y. Times report by Nicole Sperling, the ongoing dispute between Netflix and two major exhibition chains, AMC Theatres and Cineplex, about the theatrical release of Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman boils down to an unrealistic expectation on the exhibition side.
The chains want Netflix to delay streaming The Irishman for “close to three months” after its theatrical opening day while Netflix, following their Roma model, wants to begin streaming 21 days after the theatrical debut.
This despite a claim by former 20th Century Fox distribution exec Chris Aronson that “more than 95 percent of movies stop earning their keep in theaters at the 42-day mark,” according to Sperling’s article.
Exhibitors nonetheless fear that the proposed 21-day window will persuade ticket-buyers to bypass The Irishman in theatres, as they would only have to wait three weeks to see it at home.
90% of The Irishman‘s theatrical revenue will come from educated, review-reading, 35-and-over types who will want to immerse themselves in Scorsese’s wiseguy epic (it allegedly runs around three hours) and be part of the conversation, and most of these transactions will happen during the first three weeks, four at the outside. A portion of the under-35 megaplex mongrels may attend out of curiosity, but the bulk of the business will come from Scorsese loyalists and cultivated cineastes.
So if Netflix wanted to be accommodating, they would agree to wait 45 days to stream — half of the window that exhibitors want. My hunch is that the deal with AMC and Cineplex will result in a 30-day delay. Somewhere between 30 and 45 — that’s where the peace lies.
Netflix will want The Irishman to be in theatres during the heat of award season, or from mid-October to early December. Open it in theatres on Friday, 10.18 and keep it in plexes for seven weeks, or until Thursday, 12.5. We all understand that peak Irishman business will happen between the weekends of 10.18 and 11.15, max. And more likely between 10.18 and 11.7 — be honest. Especially considering the allegedly somber, meditative tone (“It’s not Goodfellas“) and three-hour length.
In the exhibitor fantasy realm The Irishman, given the theoretical 10.18 theatrical debut, wouldn’t begin streaming until mid-January. Unlikely. Especially with the currently abbreviated Academy voting window.
Again — for exhibs it’s all about dissuading potential customers from deciding to wait it out. For the casual moviegoer, a 21-day delay isn’t a big deal but a 45-day wait might prompt them to see The Irishman in theatres. Scorsese fans aren’t going to wait at all — they’ll storm the plexes for the first two or three weeks, no question.
Sperling: “The full extent of the theatrical rollout remains up in the air. Where, exactly, moviegoers will be able to see The Irishman won’t be clear until the discussions between Netflix and select major theater chains end. They have been dragging on for months.
“Two other large chains, Regal and Cinemark, told The New York Times that they were not in discussions with Netflix over The Irishman.”
Regal statement to The Times: “Currently, we are not in any discussion with Netflix on The Irishman nor on any other movie. Of course, if Netflix will decide to respect the industry business model and release the movie with a proper theatrical window, we will be more than happy to discuss the booking of the movie in Regal theaters.”