‘The Irishman’ Is Already Netflix’s Biggest Theatrical Release

The Irishman is about to hit your Netflix account, but it’s part of a much bigger narrative.

The streaming wars may be heating up, putting Netflix to the test. But the company has its eyes on a loftier goal: theatrical distribution. Last year saw Netflix really ramp up efforts to become a major destination for Hollywood elite. Its Roma was one of the big winners at Oscar night in 2019.

This year marks another leap forward. Netflix has a handful of major awards contenders in play, with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman chief among them. Even before its release on the streaming service itself, The Irishman has proven to be the biggest theatrical hit Netflix has ever seen.

UMartin Scorsese at 'The Irishman' premiere
UMartin Scorsese at ‘The Irishman’ premiere | VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

What is ‘The Irishman’ about?

The Irishman has been making headlines not only because of the win it represents for Netflix. The film marks the latest collaboration between Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and Joe Pesci. Moreover, the project marks Scorsese’s first time working with Al Pacino. Then, of course, Scorsese has been making headlines with his opinions on the current state of cinema.

The Irishman follows Frank Sheeran (De Niro), a hitman who may or may not have been involved with the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa (Pacino). Based on the 2004 Charles Brandt book I Heard You Paint Houses, the film is heavily expected to be a major Oscar player, especially given Scorsese’s career and that of his legendary cast.

Martin Scorsese’s latest is already a hit

Regardless how the film performs on the awards circuit, Netflix already has a hit on its hands. Throughout the weeks preceding its Netflix launch, The Irishman has been slowly expanding to U.S. theaters. That limited run — which began with only eight screens in New York and Los Angeles — has laid the foundation for a much larger international rollout.

Stateside, Netflix has run into opposition from theaters due to its refusal to wait 90 days between theatrical release to streaming. But The Irishman has secured significant releases overseas in the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. To assist in this effort, Netflix has been working with FilmNation Entertainment to expand the film’s reach.

Even so, some other countries are less forgiving of Netflix’s theaters-to-streaming policy. The film barely played in either Germany or France, and The Irishman may not get a release whatsoever in China. It also isn’t playing in the Middle East, where it opened the Cairo Film Festival.

When is the film coming to Netflix?

Nevertheless, the global reach of The Irishman certainly helps Netflix overcome the stigma it has struggled against domestically. Having such key international markets onboard only helps boost the film’s awards chances. Moreover, it means Netflix may have an easier go with its next big project.

For now though, fans anxious to see The Irishman for themselves may still be able to find a screening in their area. The film’s 209-minute runtime means fewer theater screens and showings. But Netflix will continue to expand its theatrical run, even though its streaming release is right around the corner.

The Irishman will be released on Netflix on November 27. So even fans who can’t make it to the theater will be able to take in Scorsese’s latest gangster epic in the comfort of their own homes.