Features & Columns

Irishmania

Netflix makes the Academy an offer it can't refuse with production of Martin Scorsese epic

Irishmania | Original Gangsters | Review: 'The Irishman' | The Mailmen

Arriving at the Roosevelt on Thursday afternoon, the reception clerk apologized for the inconvenience. Hollywood Boulevard was shut down in front of the Chinese Theater with steel traffic fences, drapes, tents and carpeting; the hotel's iconic David Hockney pool was closed for a private party; and Hoffa for President banners hung in the lobby. Referencing my Italian last name, he cryptically mentioned that all the big names would be there, but couldn't tell me more.

Slipping into the heavily-secured pool deck via service entrance later that night, I was impressed by the free-flowing Chivas Regal and champagne, ice cream sundae bar, the hot dog stand's vegan options, the cigar rolling station, swimsuit models inside floating water balls and selfies with Joe Pesci for anyone who could charm the Newark, NJ-born former barber's handlers.

That Silicon Valley wrote the checks for this Hollywood extravaganza is yet another twist in a long unfolding story. The red carpets aren't moving to Los Gatos or Cupertino, but some key decisions about how the world consumes mass market entertainment will be made behind the glass windows along Winchester Boulevard and at Apple Park.

Given the public's insatiable affection for 20th Century mob murderers, the latest epic from that genre seems to have created either a calculated or accidentally fortuitous eruption of unsatisfied consumer demand. No doubt Netflix hopes its investment will produce another tranche of streaming subscriptions.

The hype machine, launch parties and marquee names clearly still work their marketing magic, but this time there will be an inadequate number of sold-out theaters to deliver public screenings. The shared laughs and gasps and post-viewing conversations will ensue in the bedrooms and living rooms of our fragmented digital age box abodes, while the communal experience will be reserved for Hollywood's influencers and the lucky attendees at the smattering of venues booked to meet the minimum test for Oscar nominations.

The Irishman's release may one day be notable as a watershed moment in a historic transition, the biggest release to ever clog an internet pipe.