Will The Irishman Boost Netflix to New Highs?


Nov. 28 2019, Updated 8:54 a.m. ET

Netflix (NFLX) started streaming The Irishman yesterday, and viewers couldn’t ask for more. The movie, a gangster pseudo-biopic, has received rave reviews since its theatrical release on November 1. The movie’s Netflix debut within weeks of its release is likely to draw in a massive viewership. By showing the film ahead of Thanksgiving and the holiday season, Netflix is undoubtedly playing its cards strategically.

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The Irishman: A Netflix-backed epic

The Irishman is a crime-thriller about mafioso Frank Sheeran. The movie draws inspiration from Sheeran’s 2004 biography, I Heard You Paint Houses, by Charles Brandt. Directed by Martin Scorsese, the film has a star cast, with Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, Joe Pesci, and Harvey Keitel. It goes without saying that movie lovers are going gaga over it. And according to the New York Post, this 209-minute movie is the decade’s longest studio film. The movie’s acclaimed actors and Scorsese’s riveting narrative have mesmerized the audiences, as have its digital de-aging effects, states the New York Post.

The Irishman premiered in New York. However, Netflix’s agreement with Scorsese entailed a limited run for the movie in theaters, indicates the Los Angeles Times. Only select theaters in New York, Los Angeles, and a few other cities showed the film.

Netflix trades ticket sales for subscriber count

Some think that Netflix, by opting for limited runs, has lost out on a big money-making opportunity. This month, CNBC reported that box office analyst and theater owner Doug Stone said The Irishman “certainly could make $100 million,” and that “Netflix would get 55% of the box office.”

However, as Netflix is a streaming platform and not a conventional Hollywood studio, it has different ambitions. By joining forces with top-notch Hollywood personalities, Netflix is aiming to boost subscriptions. A big reason for The Irishman’s theatrical release was Netflix’s wish for it to qualify for the Oscars. And Scorsese demanded it, reports CNBC.

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Netflix wants to make money primarily through subscriptions, and seems inseparable from its core business model. The advertisement model doesn’t seem to appeal to the company, and it looks more interested in keeping its subscribers hooked. Therefore, it opted to make the movie available for subscribers as soon as possible. To learn more, Netflix: Three-Pronged Strategy to Outpace the Competition.

JPMorgan Chase bullish on NFLX stock

In the wake of the streaming wars, Netflix is relying heavily on original programming to broader its subscriber base. JPMorgan Chase thinks The Irishman, Netflix’s biggest-ever movie, will give the stock a much-needed boost, reports CNBC. According to Business Insider, JPMorgan stated, “We believe Netflix could provide an early viewing metric over the next week, which in our view could be the next catalyst.” Business Insider added, “JPMorgan said Netflix’s fourth-quarter content slate could be ‘its best ever’ thanks to titles such as ‘El Camino: A Breaking Bad Movie,’ ‘Dolemite Is My Name,’ and the third season of the ‘The Crown.'” JPMorgan has given NFLX stock an “overweight” rating and a $425 price target.

In the past month, Netflix stock has climbed nearly 12% after a prolonged slump over two quarters. Even after the launch of Apple TV+ (AAPL) and Disney + (DIS), Netflix investors seem to be confident of its growth. JPMorgan also attributed the release of The Irishman to the stock’s rise.

Viewership count crucial for The Irishman

As a result of its massive spending on original programming, Netflix has negative cash flow. The Irishman demonstrates Netflix’s focus on content—its budget went north of $175 million, estimates CinemaBlend

Choosing to stream a blockbuster like The Irishman on its platform at this juncture is a smart move. LightShed Partners analyst Rich Greenfield spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about Netflix’s strategy to lock in subscribers. He said, “You have to look at it holistically. I don’t think The Irishman will specifically cause people to stay home and away from movie theaters, but I do think it’s symbolic of a trend toward great content being available on streaming.”

Netflix doesn’t disclose the viewership count readily. However, we’ll be staying tuned to updates on how The Irishman pays off.


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