Martin Scorsese’s three-and-a-half hour film The Irishman is going to Broadway, where audiences are a little more used to sitting through marathon entertainment.
Netflix struck a deal with the Shubert Organization, a landlord who owns many Broadway theaters, to screen The Irishman at the Belasco Theatre, making it the first film to play there in its 112-year history. Scorsese’s mafia epic will follow a standard Broadway “performance” schedule, with eight screenings a week and matinees on weekends. Mondays will be “dark,” per theatrical tradition.
The Broadway deal is a savvy move by Netflix, who is footing the bill to install state-of-the-art screening equipment at the Belasco while The Irishman runs there from November 1 to December 1. The film drops on Netflix on November 27, the day before Thanksgiving in the US, all but assuring the majority of viewers will stream Scorsese’s opus in their living rooms.
As Indiewire reported, both Netflix and the director originally hoped for a broader mainstream theatrical premiere. But the short window between theatrical and at-home releases — leveraged to allow The Irishman to qualify for the Oscars, while maximizing streaming eyeballs — is at odds with movie theaters’ bottom line. Typically, studios agree to keep a film in theaters for 90 days, to give them each a chance to recoup on ticket sales. Sending a film straight to streaming, where a platform monopolizes distribution and therefore revenue, threatens to cut out movie theaters as the middlemen.
Scorsese didn’t acknowledge the controversy, however, offering a different explanation during the Broadway announcement. "We’ve lost so many wonderful theaters in New York City in recent years, including single house theaters like the Ziegfeld and the Paris," he said in a statement. "The opportunity to recreate that singular experience at the historic Belasco Theatre is incredibly exciting."
Interestingly, almost every wizened actor connected to The Irishman has a personal connection to the Belasco. Al Pacino won his first Tony Award for his 1969 Broadway debut in Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie? which played there. Scorsese directed Liza Minnelli in the 1977 musical The Act at the Belasco. Harvey Keitel was in two plays there — Death of a Salesman in 1975 and Hurlyburly in 1984. Even Robert De Niro has history with the theater: he starred in Cuba and His Teddy Bear in 1986 and co-directed A Bronx Tale: The Musical with Jerry Zaks in 2016.
While The Irishman may be shunned by larger movie houses like AMC and Regal, Variety reported that Netflix is in talks with smaller chains like Alamo Drafthouse and Landmark to help the film reach a slightly broader theatrical audience — most critically, awards voters.