There will be some kind of cinema release for The Irishman, to help it qualify for awards attention – but just how big a release is unclear.

Comfortably the highest profile Netflix movie project to date, Martin Scorsese’s eagerly-awaited The Irishman will be debuting at the New York Film Festival and London Film Festival over the coming weeks.

Furthermore, the $160m movie – starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci – is then already being talked about as a strong awards contender. This is very much music to Netflix’s ears, with the feeling being that it came incredibly close to an Oscar Best Picture with Roma earlier this year.

But one factor that always counts against Netflix is the short shrift it pays to a cinema release for its films. Understandable certainly, given that it makes its films for its own streaming service. However, the likes of the Academy Awards and the BAFTAs insist on a limited cinema release. Furthermore, in the case of The Irishman, director Martin Scorsese is said to have insisted on it.

The question, then, is how big a release to give it. Netflix, according to The New York Times, has been in chats with American cinema chains for months without a breakthrough thus far. The sticking point is the condition said chains set down that they get the film for up to three months before it’s available for streaming, and there’s no way that Netflix will be agreeing to that.

In the UK, chains such as Vue and Cineworld objected to BAFTA handing out its Best Picture prize to Roma this year, given that its cinema release was very limited. The difference with The Irishman is there’s likely to be a far bigger appetite for a wide release.

We wait and see how this pans out. The further backdrop is that for the first time since 2011, Netflix’s American subscriber base has dropped recently. The pressure is on, particularly with more streaming services incoming. The full report at the New York Times is here.

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