Netflix Falls Short in Big Screen Debut of ‘The Irishman’

LOS ANGELES — After months of negotiations, Netflix couldn’t clinch the big-screen deal it wanted.

The streaming giant, which has roots in Silicon Valley, has tried to appease its top-shelf directors as it expands further into the movie business. But when it came a wide theatrical release for “The Irishman,” the $159 million gangster epic from director Martin Scorsese, Netflix fell short.

Netflix announced its fall releases on Tuesday with “The Irishman” set to debut in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles on Nov. 1 and then opening in theaters in cities across the country and internationally later that month. It will be available on Netflix on Nov. 27, the announcement said.

The main issue between the two is theatrical exclusivity and when the film would be available on Netflix. The major chains wanted “The Irishman” to be seen only in theaters for a longer period than Netflix was willing to accept.

With three and a half weeks of theatrical exclusivity, the rollout of the Scorsese film is similar to the modest theatrical run for “Roma,” its 2018 film from the director Alfonso Cuaron that won three Oscars.

Netflix executives, led by its film division chief Scott Stuber, negotiated for months with at least two major theatrical chains including AMC Theatres and Cineplex to allow its gangster epic to screen nationwide. AMC, for one, operates 11,000 theaters worldwide and is the largest U.S. exhibitor. But the chains insisted that Netflix play by the same rules as other studios like Warner Bros. and Disney and honor an exclusivity window, in which films screen in theaters for nearly three months before appearing anywhere else, including the streaming platforms.

“The Irishman” is a crime drama long planned by Mr. Scorsese that reunites the director with his cadre of frequent acting collaborators including Robert DeNiro, Harvey Keitel and Joe Pesci. For the first time, Mr. Scorsese directed Al Pacino, who plays Teamster leader Jimmy Hoffa in the film.

The film turned into a Netflix project in 2017 when Mr. Scorsese’s original studio, Paramount, balked at its production budget, which includes expensive de-aging technology that allows the actors to look the appropriate ages in this decade-spanning epic. The drama is expected to be one of Netflix’s top contenders in the Oscar race.

“The Irishman” is set to open the New York Film Festival on Sept. 27. Mr. Scorsese had been angling for an expansive release, according to two sources with knowledge of his thinking. The film’s debut reaffirms Netflix’s focus on growing its subscriber base, which stands at 151 million worldwide.

The company is still negotiating with smaller theater chains such as Landmark Theatres, according to two sources with knowledge of the talks. Most of those agreements will not feature the shared revenue deals traditionally agreed upon between distribution and exhibition companies. Instead, Netflix will rent out the entire theaters and no box office results will be reported.

With challenges from the Walt Disney Company, which plans to unveil its streaming service Nov. 12, and Apple debuting its own on an unspecified date this fall, as well as competition ahead from WarnerMedia and Comcast next spring, Netflix is spending billions of dollars to ensure subscribers don’t flee to other services.