The world of film distribution is truly changing with the news that the streaming service Netflix will be taking worldwide rights to Martin Scorsese‘s gangster film The Irishman. Typically a studio big-hitter, the Scorsese- Robert De Niro $100 million re-team was under the umbrella of Paramount Pictures — the company has an overall feature deal with the director running through 2019. Indiewire reports that the studio was not prepared to take the huge risk that this film would require, however.
The Irishman will star De Niro as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran, a hitman for the mob who was rumored to be involved in the death of Jimmy Hoffa. The screenplay was adapted by Steve Zaillian from Charles Brandt’s book I Heard You Paint Houses. Part of the risk of Scorsese’s film (aside from the $100 million budget) is that he plans to use special effects to turn De Niro back into a 30-year-old man. Al Pacino may also be going through the treatment for the film, although his involvement is still in negotiations.
Paramount was originally handling North American distribution with STX Entertainment taking over foreign rights after a $50 million deal at Cannes last year. Despite the great ambition of the project, Scorsese is known for turning out massive numbers at the box office, with The Wolf of Wall Street bringing in $392 million globally.
Now that Netflix has taken over, that will likely mean STX is out as well. The newly minted distributors plan to release the film in 2019, with a limited theatrical release prior to that for an Oscar push. When all is said and done, the freedom of a platform like Netflix may be just what Scorsese needs to make his vision a reality.