Martin Scorsese, an award-winning and revered director, has been struggling to get a film called The Irishman made and released for close to a decade. Now, however, seven years after the film was announced, The Irishman has found a worldwide buyer in Netflix.
IndieWire reported last night that Netflix had acquired the film, which was originally supposed to be distributed domestically by Paramount and internationally by STX. The purchase makes it one of the biggest independent films the streaming service has bought, with Scorsese being one of the most prolific directors to enter an exclusive deal with Netflix.
The Irishman, which stars Robert DeNiro, is expected to be released in late 2019, close to 10 years after the the longtime co-workers announced they would be adapting Charles Brandt’s novel I Heard You Paint Houses for the big screen. Like many of Scorsese’s mob-related films, the movie will tell the story of Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a hitman for the Bufalino crime family who claimed on his deathbed to have murdered the head of the family.
Although it’s strange that a movie like The Irishman wouldn’t find immediate funding — especially with a director like Scorsese attached to the project — the bigger takeaway is that a company like Netflix is setting itself up to be the go-to company for independent, potentially award-winning films.
This isn’t the first time that Netflix has taken a chance on an independent movie. One of the more notable films that made Netflix a major player in the independent scene was Beasts of No Nation, which was nominated for a Golden Globe in 2016. Considering STX was willing to spend $50 million to distribute the film originally, it does prove Netflix is more than ready to make major investments in being the home of work from directors like Scorsese. Again, this is a company that takes no qualms in making lavish purchases; the company reportedly spent close to $100 million to sign an exclusive deal with Jerry Seinfeld for similar reasons. Netflix wants to be home to the best.
Most importantly, Netflix is proving yet again that it wants to be the world’s distributor. The Irishman was originally supposed to be distributed internationally via STX and domestically via Paramount. Now, however, it appears that both Paramount and STX have pulled out, making Netflix the sole distributor.
This is Netflix’s area to excel in. Netflix has become the home to global distribution for a number of series and films, including CBS’ Star Trek: Discovery. Netflix doesn’t get to decide where certain shows and films go, but original series and licensed properties gives the company a little more room to grow its library of content and build up its brand in the close to 200 countries the service is available in.
“We are making progress in licensing content across the world and, as of last week, now offer the Netflix service in 190 countries,” David Fullagar, Netflix’s vice president of content delivery architecture, said in a blog post last year when the company announced it would be shutting down access to its site via proxy services. “We have a ways to go before we can offer people the same films and TV series everywhere.”
Acquiring The Irishman is more than just a regular purchase for Netflix. It’s a way to be more competitive with companies like Amazon, whose movie Manchester by the Sea is nominated for six Oscars this year, and be a dominant presence in the streaming service and film industries worldwide.
The Irishman is currently in development and is aiming for a 2019 release.