• Written by Bruce Isaacs, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, University of Sydney
When a filmmaker as big as Scorsese needs Netflix for funding, what does it mean for the little guys? IMDB

Cinema has always been a medium in crisis. After the so-called golden age of Hollywood came television: why go to the movies when you can sit in the comfort of your home, watching recycled movies in letterbox format? Yet cinemas adapted and survived.

This week, major cinema chains said they would not run Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film The Irishman because Netflix - who partially funded production and own distribution rights - were restricting its theatre run to four weeks before it hit small screens.

The news signals a looming threat to cinema as we know it.

Big screen blues

Television made movies a commodity audiences could consume on their own terms. Yet cinema survived. In fact, it became a global mass cultural medium in the late 1970s and in the multiplexes of the 1980s.

Even the turbulent digital turn that brought cinema to a second crisis point in the early 2000s was navigated by the major Hollywood studios with the rebirth of the blockbuster in pristine form: Avatar (2009) in stereoscopic 3-D, the high-tech Marvel cinematic universe.

This is all to say that cinema, for the time being, is alive and well.

Director Martin Scorsese with Al Pacino and cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto on set. IMDB

But shrinking diversity in cinema offerings - Scorsese is no Marvel fan - has forced even big name directors to seek funding from alternative sources. This is especially necessary when their movie costs US$159 million (A$230 million) to make. Enter television streaming giant Netflix.

Are you talking to me?

The Irishman, Scorsese’s eagerly anticipated gangster epic, opened this week in a number of independent Australian cinemas.

The Irishman tells the story of war veteran Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) who worked as a hitman alongside Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino).

Scorsese is perhaps America’s greatest living auteur, the director of films including Taxi Driver (1976), Raging Bull (1980), Goodfellas (1990), and Casino (1995).

But what makes The Irishman unlike any other Scorsese film is that it is being distributed by Netflix. After its short theatre run it will be distributed to our homes, where it will do its major business.

Director Steven Spielberg (pictured with Scorsese at the Golden Globes) has argued Netflix films shouldn’t be considered Oscar-worthy. IMDB

In February, the tension between Netflix and theatrical distributors escalated with the nomination of Alfonso Cuarón’s Netflix-distributed Roma for a Best Picture Oscar. Director Steven Spielberg subsequently declared a Netflix film might “deserve an Emmy, but not an Oscar”.

A Netflix production – whether David Fincher’s monumental longform series, Mindhunter, or Scorsese’s The Irishman – was television and therefore not cinema.

Goodfellas or bad guys?

Netflix represents a very real threat to theatrically screened cinema and its distribution apparatus, which is why several large cinema chains in the US (and, indeed, Australia) are boycotting The Irishman.

While Netflix has consistently produced high quality content either through internal production or by acquiring and distributing titles, its assimilation of an auteur picture – a Scorsese gangster epic, no less - signals an aggressive move into the once sacrosanct domain of cinema entertainment.

One wonders: if Scorsese capitulates to the economic strictures of the contemporary studio system, what will independent filmmakers do? How will low budget features be funded in an era in which Netflix colonises the large and small-scale productions alike?

Scorsese has directed many of the greatest characters of modern cinema.

Netflix is not cinema, but neither is it television. Directors such as Spielberg struggle to understand that the new media entertainment regime is far removed from the projection (theatre) or broadcast (television) media environment of a predigital era.

Instead of declaring a Netflix production unworthy of an Oscar, we could invert this measure: perhaps it is the Oscar that is increasingly outmoded as an artistic and cultural mark of value.

‘The End’, roll credits

The digital economic currents that carry Netflix intuitively seek expansion into proximate markets, and cinema is a natural fit. Netflix’s move into cinema distribution – with Scorsese at the helm – is therefore a smart negotiation. Even if Scorsese is an unwilling participant, it sets a clear precedent.

It seems unlikely that cinema will end in any formal sense, at least within the next few decades.

But a Netflix-distributed Scorsese film gives us cause to lament the ailing cinema experience. Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk (2017) exemplified cinema’s ability to assault us with big screen images and jolt our bodies with a powerful soundscape. Only a grand technological scale can provide this kind of visceral experience.

Can films on television ever pack the same punch as a cinema experience? Above, a still from The Irishman. IMDB

And yet, like Scorsese, I’m tired of Marvel. I’m tired of the rigidity of formulaic narrative and image structures intrinsic to the contemporary studio system. I’m disappointed at Hollywood’s capitulation to an instrumental economic model. Could a studio have produced The Irishman? They had a chance, and they turned it down.

Hollywood - and media entertainment structures more generally - will need to find a way for the big and small screen distributors to get along in order to keep the dynasty alive.

Bruce Isaacs does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Bruce Isaacs, Senior Lecturer in Film Studies, University of Sydney

Read more http://theconversation.com/pass-the-popcorn-scorsese-cinema-boycott-will-shape-the-future-of-movies-126598

10 Signs You Need To Replace Your Windows

No doubt, it is impossible to talk to your home, but it gives you some clear signs when something is wrong with it. However, your home windows can be communicative, and they better explain what they...

News Company - avatar News Company

Need a doctor at your home? Here are your options

There are many valid reasons that health experts make home visits. It is a fact that many family doctors are concerned about repayments if they make too many home visits. This matter regulates diffe...

News Company - avatar News Company

We found the world's oldest asteroid strike in Western Australia. It might have triggered a global thaw

The ancient landscape at Yarrabubba preserves traces of the world’s oldest known asteroid impact. ShutterstockThe world’s oldest remaining asteroid crater is at a place called Yarrabubba, ...

Aaron J. Cavosie, Senior research fellow, Curtin University - avatar Aaron J. Cavosie, Senior research fellow, Curtin University

Scientists hate to say 'I told you so'. But Australia, you were warned

Without a radical change of course on climate change, Australians will struggle to survive on this continent, let alone thrive. AAP/Dave HuntThose who say “I told you so” are rarely welcom...

Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University - avatar Will Steffen, Emeritus Professor, Australian National University

The science backs Harry and Meghan turning in their royal privilege. Fame and fortune aren't the keys to happiness

If you’ve ever dreamt of fame and fortune, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle turning their backs on the royal lifestyle might seem churlish. So too their desire to be “financially ...

Jolanda Jetten, Professor, School of Psychology, ARC Laureate Fellow, The University of Queensland - avatar Jolanda Jetten, Professor, School of Psychology, ARC Laureate Fellow, The University of Queensland

New year, new strategy? Unheralded change to budget targets creates space for stimulus

In public, the government is crab-walking away from its commitment to a budget surplus, saying since the bushfires that other things have become more important. Asked directly on Tuesday whether he w...

Danielle Wood, Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutional Reform, Grattan Institute - avatar Danielle Wood, Program Director, Budget Policy and Institutional Reform, Grattan Institute

I’m taking antibiotics – how do I know I've been prescribed the right ones?

Not all antibiotics kill all types of bacteria. fizkes/ShutterstockIn the days before antibiotics, deaths from bacterial infections were common. Seemingly minor illnesses could escalate in severity, b...

Christine Carson, Senior Research Fellow, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Western Australia - avatar Christine Carson, Senior Research Fellow, School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Western Australia

Bushfire education is too abstract. We need to get children into the real world

Children and young people have been deeply impacted by the current bushfire crisis. Schools have been destroyed and thousands of houses have burnt down. Hazardous air pollution is causing major public...

Briony Towers, Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University - avatar Briony Towers, Research Fellow, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

Juries need to be told how they're allowed to use the internet to ensure fair trials

We can't stop jurors accessing the internet, but we can educate them and encourage self-regulation. from www.shutterstock.comJuries are supposed to consider evidence without influence or bias from th...

Jemma Holt, Research Fellow/ Acting Executive Officer (Research), Tasmania Law Reform Institute, University of Tasmania - avatar Jemma Holt, Research Fellow/ Acting Executive Officer (Research), Tasmania Law Reform Institute, University of Tasmania

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company