The quiet restrictions of The Irishman’s UK cinema release

The Irishman
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Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman lands in UK cinemas today – but as it turns out, there’s initially going to be only a few places where it’s playing.

From this Friday, in theory, Martin Scorsese’s long-awaited The Irishman finally makes it the big screen. The movie has a three week theatrical window before Netflix – the company who funded it – makes it live on its streaming service. And with it being one of the most anticipated films of the year, there are many looking for a chance to see Scorsese’s film on a big screen.

But they might be struggling to do so.

Firstly, because most cinemas aren’t showing the film. And secondly, because on the quiet, there’s something of a staggered regional roll-out going on.

Netflix is partnering with Altitude to get the film into cinemas – Altitude has a similar deal in place with Sky for its Sky Cinema releases – and the Film Distributors’ Association (FDA) website suggests there are enough prints (well, DCPs) being struck for over 100 venues to show the movie.

However, for the first six days of its release, there are only two cities in the entire United Kingdom where you’ll be able to see the movie on the big screen. One is London, the other is Belfast.

I count 14 sites showing the film in London from this coming Friday, and it’s as interesting for who isn’t in that list as who is. As expected, all of the major cinema chains are boycotting the film, primarily in protest at Netflix’s short-shrift that it gives to cinema exhibition. There’s a belief that were a theatrical release not needed to qualify for awards season, Netflix wouldn’t be bothering with the big screen at all.

Conversely, Martin Scorsese had been trying to get this film made for over a decade, and when it came to it, only Netflix was willing to both write him a cheque to make it, and allow him to release it at 210 minutes long.

It’s the independents in London you need to look for then, with Everyman and Curzon the main chain cinemas who have opted not to boycott the film.

In Northern Ireland, the story is healthier. 15 sites primarily around Belfast have the film in its first week, including the Omniplex chain. But crucially, there are showings a little afar in Northern Ireland too. The likes of Odeon aren’t touching it, though.

I did wonder if the Belfast screenings meant that the other capital cities within the United Kingdom had the movie on its UK release date. Turns out that they don’t. If you live in Wales or Scotland, then it’s hard cheese for the first six days of The Irishman’s run. You get no screening whatsoever.

Films opening first in London ahead of an awards run or slow expansion is nothing new of course, a tried and trusted tactic. It feels curious when said tactic is being deployed on such a short window, though, and it’s hard not to feel shortchanged.

If you don’t live in London or Northern Ireland then, and want to see the movie in the UK without travelling to either place, then you need to wait until Thursday 14th November. Only then have cinemas outside of those locations been given access to prints, and understandably, independents around the UK have been quick to snap them up when they can get access to them, and lots of screenings are on sale around Britain for then.

There’s an interactive map on the Netflix website if you’re on the hunt for a screening near you. You can find that here.

It should be noted too that when the film closed the London Film Festival last month, screenings took place on the same day around the UK, that weren’t just locked to London and Belfast.

But still, Netflix is doing little to dispel the myth that it’s doing just about enough and little beyond that – again understandably – where The Irishman’s theatrical rollout in the UK is concerned. I get that. The big date for it is November 27th, when the film hits its streaming service, and multiplexes have hardly encouraged it to do more than it is.

It’s just a shame for those of us outside of London and Northern Ireland who are being asked to wait a little longer, for little obvious reason or benefit. It’s not the end of the world, of course. It’s just puzzling, and feels a little unfair.

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