The Irishman — the new Martin Scorsese film starring the likes of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Joe Pesci among others — is out now on Netflix. With a reported production budget of $160 million (about Rs. 1,150 crores) and a runtime of nearly three and a half hours, it is arguably the biggest movie and by far, the longest one, produced by the world’s biggest streaming service. It’s also one of its best, with a 96 percent rating on reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. But if you were hoping to catch the epic crime drama on the big screen in India, well, your options are non-existent. (Unless you’re capable of time travel, which we’ll get to in a minute.) So whose fault is it, Netflix or India’s big cinema chains?
PVR Pictures CEO Kamal Gianchandani told Gadgets 360 on Wednesday that the eight-week — or 56 days, if you prefer — theatrical window is “sacrosanct” in India. (Amazon has pushed it down to four weeks for some South Indian movies that it didn’t produce.) Gianchandani noted the 56-day window is already shorter than the 90-day window that applies to most of North America and Europe. And because PVR knew Netflix’s position on theatrical windows, “there was no direct engagement. I’ve personally spoken to a few people in Netflix in Los Angeles office. But we knew what their position is, they knew what our position is, so we never really got down to negotiating anything.”
“Anything less than eight weeks is not doable from theatrical perspective,” Gianchandani said, and added in a jab at Netflix: “It’s being followed by all studios. With Amazon [original movies], because they have been adhering to windows, there is no problem.” Gianchandani noted that the likes of Oscar-winning Manchester by the Sea were released in theatres; not in India, albeit for reasons different from The Irishman. Gianchandani said PVR Cinemas is open to screen films made by streaming services as long as they adhere to India’s eight-week theatrical window. Netflix agreed to a 26-day theatrical window for The Irishman, which released November 1 in select cinemas in the US, the UK, Australia, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Spain.
PVR might be India’s biggest cinema chain but it’s not the only big player. Cinépolis didn’t respond, though the cinema chain declined to screen Oscar-winning Roma — made by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón — in its home country of Mexico last year, because it wanted a longer window than Netflix was willing to offer. And in a statement to Gadgets 360, INOX’s chief programming officer Rajender Singh Jyala said: “INOX follows the globally-honoured and a well-set theatrical window phenomenon, which lends sustainability to the content and brings value to the content creator. As far as The Irishman is concerned, the makers of the film did not reach out to us for screening in India.”
It’s strange that Netflix didn’t even bother to try and get The Irishman in cinemas across India, considering the stars at its disposal: Scorsese, De Niro, and Pacino to name. After all, most Scorsese movies, including even his passion project Silence — which failed to recover its modest budget globally — have been released in Indian theatres in the past. Moreover, The Irishman deserves to be seen on the big screen, as this correspondent can attest from his experience at the 2019 Mumbai Film Festival — colloquially known as MAMI — where Netflix presented it alongside five other original titles. If you’re capable of time travel, this is where your skills come in.
Netflix’s streaming-first approach does a lot of good, but it’s a shame — and a huge disappointment for film-lovers — every time a film like The Irishman doesn’t grace the big screen. Netflix did not respond to repeated requests for comment.