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Netflix looks for luck with 'The Irishman' in battle with AMC & other movie theaters

Mike Cherico

Netflix and major movie theater chains are at war over how exactly to release Martin Scorsese’s latest opus starring Robert DeNiro, “The Irishman.”

At stake is the future of the movie and theater business as Netflix executives fight for their streaming customers, while theater companies struggle to maintain their traditional business models. In the middle of it all is America’s top director, Scorsese, who would like to see his epic hit theaters upon its release according to reporting by the New York Times.

The $159 million film, which also stars Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, is scheduled to premiere on the opening night of the New York Film Festival on September 27th. But where audiences will be able to see the highly anticipated gangster movie about the hitman who claims to have killed Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa remains to be announced.

Netflix resumed talks two weeks ago with AMC Theaters, which control 11,000 screens domestically, about how to roll out the film after negotiations ended inconclusively earlier this year. The crux of the battle lies in whether or not Netflix will be able to stream the film to their online audiences while at nearly the same time debuting the film in movie theaters reports the Times.

AMC is fighting to have the blockbuster exclusively for three months, which is how major films are traditionally released. Netflix, however, is battling for a new norm, looking for a shorter release, perhaps only 3 weeks in theaters with a possible tandem rollout online.

“Talks are underway with Netflix about our showing ‘The Irishman’ and other Netflix films, but the outcome of those conversations is not yet clear.” AMC’s CEO Adam Aron explained in a statement according to the Times.

“Netflix will win over the theatres,” says media analyst Porter Bibb of Media Tech Capital exclusively to Fox News. “If they don't get their way, they will simply run Scorcese's film on Netflix, reap all the good reviews (and new subscribers) and then put it out in the theatres. “

“The theatres are crazy not to talk about variable pricing and offer Netflix a steep discounted ticket price but they have a different goal -- gouging Netflix for as much money as they can in order to make their screens available for Netflix's 'promotional' release of "The Irishman," Bibb continues.

“But the theatres really have very little leverage and will bow to Netflix since there are likely to be more Netflix features that Reed Hastings (Netflix CEO) will want to open in theatres,” says Bibb.

The results of these tense negotiations, which also separately involve Canada’s Cineplex, which controls 1,600 screens, could dictate the future of how Hollywood conducts business if Netflix's plan prevails.

This fight may have been avoided and the movie would have seen a more traditional rollout had Scorsese decided to make the film with Paramount Pictures -- which is owned by Viacom. But that studio balked at the enormous budget the Oscar-winning director was seeking for the massive project.


While Scorsese would prefer the traditional theater rollout for the film, New York Times reports that he was well aware when making the deal with Netflix that they would be in control of how and where audiences would find the film. Netflix hopes "The Irishman," will be another Oscar contender after last year's hopeful "Roma" lost out for best picture.

To satisfy it’s 151 million subscribers, Netflix recently released Adam Sandler’s rom-com “Murder Mystery,” also starring Jennifer Aniston, exclusively online with good results.The company says 78 million viewers enjoyed the movie online in the first four weeks.

A three-month theatrical release could be helpful to provide a new line of revenue to Netflix’s bottom line too.  The tech giant took a 12 percent stock dip last month after reporting its first decline in subscribers in eight years.

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