Speed Reads

race to the Oscars

Will Netflix's lack of wide release for Martin Scorsese's The Irishman hurt its 2020 Oscars chances?

Netflix's struggle to win over Oscar voters looks likely to continue in 2020.

The streamer on Tuesday announced it will release Martin Scorsese's new Oscar-buzzy film The Irishman in limited theaters on Nov. 1 and then begin streaming it less than a month later on Nov. 27. But the movie won't get a wide release in major theater chains like AMC or Regal, The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline report. This comes down to theatrical distributors requiring that movies they show play for three months exclusively before streaming, something Netflix remains unwilling to do.

It used to be that Netflix wouldn't even provide theaters any period of exclusivity, but this changed last year with Roma. Netflix released that movie in theaters for three weeks prior to streaming it in what was widely seen as an attempt to placate Academy voters and land Best Picture, although its release was still limited since the three-month window wasn't met. So when Roma, the Best Picture frontrunner all season, surprisingly lost to the traditional studio film Green Book, pundits wondered whether Netflix's status as an industry disruptor that refuses to adhere to theatrical norms held it back.

Indeed, Variety's Ramin Setoodeh reported after the show that a "bloc voted against" Roma "because they didn't want a Netflix movie to land Best Picture." The Hollywood Reporter's Gregg Kilday similarly wrote that "old-guard studio types ... didn't want to hand over Oscar to such a disruptive force."

That situation may have changed if Netflix showed it was willing to play by the theatrical rules this time, and it initially seemed like it might. Netflix reportedly wanted a wide release for The Irishman and even aired an ad during the 2019 Oscars highlighting that it would be shown in theaters. But it ultimately will only play exclusively for slightly longer than Roma, meaning that if Scorsese's film is truly Best Picture-worthy, February's show could be yet another Netflix referendum.