The battle over the state of modern cinema took a funny twist recently. Director Martin Scorsese weighed in by saying Marvel Cinematic Universe is not cinema. The backlash was swift. Do not attack a cultural movement. Martin, like so many others in Hollywood, has been left wondering what is his place in the new franchise driven film business. A critics darling, Scorsese has never been a box office magnet. His most successful films drew on the star power of Leonardo DiCaprio.
As his latest film, the acclaimed “The Irishman” premieres for Netflix, the helmer has taken aim at modern cinema. The free market economy does not count when it comes to buying tickets. “Marvel films are theme park attractions”, said Scorsese. Theaters should stop booking hem. According to this logic, as an exhibitor is better to choose “his idea of artistic integrity” over making a billion dollars.
160 + 209
Budgeted at $160 million “The Irishman” has a running time of 209 minutes. Translated; if this were a feature film, there could only be 2 theater screenings per day. It would need to earn $500 million to recoup production costs. Plus, an addition $50 million for marketing and prints costs. Martin Scorsese’s highest grossing film to date: 2006’s “The Departed” with Leonardo Di Caprio earned $291 million. No small wonder why the director had to turn to Netflix for financing his latest mobster film starring frequent creative partner Robert DiNiro. As the economics of the film business shift to even bigger tentpoles, Scorese’s view of cinema has been sidelined.
A filmmaker of the 70’s auteur movement, when studios gave directors autonomy over their work. Scorsese did not move into the blockbuster realm. Nor did he crash out like Coopola, DiPalma, or Bogdanavich. His was a world of dysfunctional characters on tee edge. Even his family friendly work, “Hugo” from 2011, a great look, but a times came across like a puzzle with missing middle pieces. Lacking an emotion. I felt no empathy for the characters. The film lost over $100 million at the box office.
Do not attack a movie genre for being successful. If the theater going public pays $20 per ticket, the film earns $2 billion at global cinemas. That is cinema.
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