Before it begins streaming on Netflix on Nov. 27, Martin Scorsese’s gangster epic The Irishman is screening in cinemas in a limited theatrical run — so limited that Cineplex (like other major cinema chains around the world) has turned down the opportunity to show the film.
Instead, Netflix is dealing with independent cinemas, which is why the prestigious and super-critically acclaimed film is screening at Dollar Cinema in Decarie Square, Mile End’s 50-seat Cinéma Moderne and, as of next Friday, the Cinémathèque Québécoise.
While the no-deal with Cineplex has been widely reported, it might strike Montrealers as strange that Cinéma du Parc isn’t screening the Scorsese film — this would seem like a good fit. According to Mario Fortin, the president and director general of Cinémas Parc/Beaubien/Musée, the reason they didn’t get the film was more logistical than ideological: the film was offered to them late, after they’d dedicated two of their three screens to the RIDM documentary fest.
“We do support other cinemas worldwide that decided not to show The Irishman because the theatrical windows is too short — only 12 days for Montreal market,” Fortin says. “Even if we did not have the festivals, we would have preferred other films from other distributors that respect the fragile balance of the market of independent movies in independent cinemas.”
Bernie Gurberg of Dollar Cinema — where The Irishman is playing between four and six times daily throughout its run (Nov. 15-21) — says that after years of seeing his second-run discount cinema lose money to Netflix, he’s happy to see the tables turned.
“The other cinemas haven’t been kind to me either,” Gurberg says of the big-screen competition. “They keep a movie for a long time and by the time it comes here it’s been seen. So now they’re banding together to fight against Netflix, and Netflix is forced to go to another cinema and I’m certainly happy for that because what goes around comes around — now I’ll get the people instead of the big boys.”
Another critically lauded film with Oscar buzz — Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver — is opening at both Cinéma Moderne and Dollar Cinema next Friday, Nov. 22, before coming to Netflix on Dec. 6.
“I should send Netflix a nice thank-you letter,” says Gurberg, speaking to me during the first screening of The Irishman at Dollar Cinema this afternoon. “There are people here now watching the movie who just came out for a fast popcorn,” he says — noting that while he’s charging $10 instead of the usual $2.50 for these first-run films, concessions are still $1 a pop, “and they’re telling me it’s the greatest movie — it’s wonderful.” ■
Read Alex Rose’s review of The Irishman here.