Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman” is ready to go, right? The film was all set to be financed by Mexican producer Gaston Pavlovich‘s Fábrica de Cine, with distributors lined up worldwide to release the movie. But things took a massive shift this week when the project was repackaged and an industry-shaking, sound-the-alarm deal with Netflix was made to release the film worldwide on the streaming channel (a day after the filmmaker knocked the idea of watching films on TV, the exact domain of Netflix). But trouble is brewing which could tangle up the movie.
Distributor STX, which sank $50 million into the film last year, is weighing legal action over Pavlovich’s pending deal with Netflix. STX bought all non-U.S. distribution rights to “The Irishman” at the Cannes Film Festival, and that’s obviously chafing next to Netflix’s deal, which would be worldwide.
As Variety puts it, the news for Netflix’s global distribution deal set off alarm bells and angered international distributors who had bought rights to the film from STX. Those distribs will not be happy to see their deals scrapped, and we should all be worried. One of the reasons that “Silence” took forever to make — you’ll remember the original version announced circa 2010 featured Daniel Day-Lewis, Gael García Bernal and Benicio del Toro — was because the film was caught up in similar legal, who-owns-what entanglements.
“It’s like you selling me an apartment and then saying someone else is going to move in,” a producer from Italy’s Lucky Red, who had purchased Italian rights, said. It’s very possible STX could sue Netflix, international distributors could sue STX, and the film could easily get caught in a legal quagmire.
“We have a legally binding and fully executed contract re: all exclusive rights in Benelux for ‘The Irishman,’” Belgian distributor The Searchers said. Ruh-roh. Maybe Netflix with their deep pockets can satisfy all parties by paying out? It’s very hard to tell, as some distributors might be vehement that they must distribute the film — after all, they paid handsomely for the rights to do so. Let’s hope this isn’t another “Silence,” but I wouldn’t be surprised if this immediately slows down the ‘Irishman’ train. If a lawsuit does hit, we could potentially be looking at years to resolve. Keep tracking this one.
And as for Paramount Pictures, who are still dealing with the wake left behind by CEO Brad Grey‘s exit, they sold their $15 million rights to the domestic distribution back to Fábrica de Cine, and are frankly probably glad not to have to deal with what could be a legal nightmare.