"It was time to try a digital human," says Ang Lee of the steep challenge of creating a young Will Smith as 'Gemini Man' and Scorsese's 'Irishman' push new boundaries of VFX, budgets and, say some, ethics.
While directing Will Smith in Gemini Man, in which the 51-year-old actor stars as an assassin hunted by a clone of his younger self, director Ang Lee made an unusual request of his star. He asked Smith to "act less."
Lee needed Smith to go back to his less-polished acting roots from the early 1990s in order to capture the performance for his younger clone. But to make Smith look like his youthful self required a whole new level of trickery that saw Lee and his visual effects team create a fully digital CGI 23-year-old Will Smith.
The result: On Oct. 11, audiences will see a Fresh Prince-era Smith trade punches with his present-day self. A few weeks later, septuagenarian screen legends Robert De Niro and Al Pacino will perform together as younger men in Martin Scorsese's gangster epic The Irishman. As visual effects technologies advance, filmmakers are rethinking the potential of digital humans, particularly as a tool for de-aging actors.
While crafting a believable synthetic human is the most difficult of VFX wizardry, Hollywood saw the possibilities a decade ago when an elderly Brad Pitt aged backward into his youthful prime in David Fincher's The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The work won the VFX Oscar that year, but the challenge of aging an actor up or down was still so daunting that it was rarely used outside of limited and specific story needs.
But to de-age by creating a synthetic human is still largely uncharted territory, and top VFX artists are using various techniques that present challenges and opportunities for directors, effects artists and even the actors themselves. Upon seeing his digital younger self for the first time in The Irishman, ILM VFX supervisor Pablo Helman says De Niro told him, "You just gave me 30 more years of my career."
Scorsese knew he needed to wield the full capacity of de-aging magic in order to make The Irishman the way he wanted: that is, with his three leads — De Niro, 75, Joe Pesci, 76, and Al Pacino, 79 — playing their characters through the decades that the story spans. But motion-capture methods of creating an onscreen digital human couldn't be used on the three veteran actors. "Marty said to me, 'One thing I know for sure — Bob's an actor's actor, Pacino and Pesci as well. They're not going to wear a helmet with two little cameras and markers all over their faces,' " says Helman.
This led to a bold initiative at ILM to develop its performance-capture capabilities so that actors do not have to wear markers on set. Netflix, which made The Irishman for $159 million, and ILM say it involves a three-camera rig with a main camera and two witness cameras, as well as companion software.
"We had taken the technology away from the actor and let the director and the actors do what they need to do," Helman explains. He adds that particularly with stars such as De Niro and Pacino, they like to act opposite each other and improvise. "That kind of interaction can't be done in the moment when you have one actor acting against a tennis ball," he contends. "We didn't er any performances. There were changes that were made to the appearance but not the choices they made in the bodies and also in the faces." Each finished shot was then reviewed by Scorsese. "He would tell us if he felt the same way as he did when he selected the take, and if it would work for the movie."
For Paramount's Gemini Man, made for $138 million plus rebates, Lee took digital human work into a whole new realm. The VFX supervisor, Bill Westenhofer, explains that as the younger and older Smith had to appear together in the same shots, other VFX techniques simply were not an option.
"I believed it was time to try a digital human," Lee says. "You had to build the character, the detail and really study human details and the performance from our actor. I believe that's what you have to do if that's your lead character."
VFX house Weta gathered images of Smith at a younger age and studied anatomy and terms such as nasolabial folds. "If anything isn't right, it falls apart," says Guy Williams, Weta's VFX supervisor. "We did a deep dive into how light interacts with skin and creating pigments under the layer of skin."
For shots in which Smith appears with his young clone, Junior, the actor performed first as Henry, with a reference actor of similar physicality playing opposite him as Junior. Then Smith performed Junior's role on a motion-capture stage opposite a reference actor playing Henry. In scenes in which Henry and Junior are not both in the frame, the team would photograph Smith wearing a facial-capture system and then perform digital face replacement on his body. Action sequences involved fully digital doubles based on stunt performances with face replacement.
Westenhofer says that while getting the eyes right is important to overcome the uncanny valley, every element of the face and body has to be spot-on. "We had in our favor that Will is pretty hehy and still moves pretty youthfully. Making sure the youthfulness came through in the body was a consideration throughout."
Costs can vary. At the moment, a fully digital human generally starts with the creation of a movable model of the human, explains Darren Hendler, head of VFX house Digital Domain's digital human group. He estimates that this could cost from $500,000 to $1 million to create. Then, he adds, producers could expect to pay anywhere from $30,000 to $100,000 per shot, depending on the individual requirements of the performance in the scene. VFX pros point out that costs will drop as computers get faster and techniques evolve.
Because of the cost and complexity of creating a digital human, filmmakers often instead use so-called digital cosmetics for de-aging tasks on the actor's actual image, such as removing wrinkles. This was seen in Marvel's Avengers: Endgame and Captain Marvel, de-aging Downey and Jackson.
These capabilities raise important ethical questions: When is it appropriate to use an actor's likeness, and what are an actor's rights to his or her likeness? That conversation intensified when late actor Robin Williams' estate put restrictions on the use of his digital likeness, an unusual move.
Westenhofer believes these are discussions that will need to happen, including how likenesses are used in Deep Fakes. "For us to do this, it took a team of several hundred artists two years to pull off. We are not close to someone going in their garage and completely fooling someone," he says.
And then there are questions about how digital humans could impact acting opportunities — actors hired to portray younger versions of lead characters may lose out on those opportunities. Still, Westenhofer is optimistic about how digital humans could lead to new stories that maybe Hollywood hasn't considered at this point. He says, "Our role is to show that all of these things are possible and allow incredibly talented people with these great imaginations and storytellers to come up with things that we haven't thought of yet."
This story first appeared in the Oct. 9 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
“I’m having trouble looking in the mirror lately,” says Henry Brogan Will Smith, one of the world’s best assassins. He’s spent a large chunk of his career bumping off bad guys for the government, but now he wants to hang up his guns and retire at the ripe old age of 51. He’s tired of killing people, and for the first time in his deadly career, he’s actually starting to grow what might be considered a conscience. But if Henry thought looking in the mirror was hard, just wait until he comes face to face with a new enemy: himself.
A younger, cloned Henry played by a digitally de-aged Smith has come calling, setting the stage for a big Will Smith vs. Will Smith action extravaganza wrapped-up in a package called Gemini Man. All the pieces are there, and those pieces rest in the able hands of director Ang Lee. So why is the end result so curiously lifeless? At some point, Lee got too caught up with the tech at work here and forgot to focus on a moving narrative. The end result is more video game than movie.
Digitally de-aging is becoming more and more prevalent. Marvel has been doing it for a few years now, perfecting things with a perfectly de-aged Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel. Martin Scorsese’s upcoming The Irishman uses similar tech to de-age Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Al Pacino – with mostly successful results there are one or two scenes where the effect seems off. Gemini Man wants to take things to a whole new level, so much so that Lee has been insistent on stating that this isn’t a “digitally de-aged” Will Smith – it’s a full CGI creation. Smith may have been his own stand-in, but his younger version is de-aged in body as well as face.
Smith has been in the limelight for decades, and we know exactly what he looked like as a younger man from his Fresh Prince days. So when the young Smith – nicknamed Junior – finally pops-up about a half-hour into the movie the result is momentarily stunning. It really looks like a young Will Smith has teleported from the past into this movie.
But then Junior starts talking – and the effect is completely blown. Because while the FX wizards Lee has worked with are able to master Smith’s resting face, they never quite get the knack to show it in motion. And unfortunately, there’s a lot of motion here. Henry and Junior are constantly sparring, fighting, and bickering, which means the digital Smith has a lot of action and acting to do. But every time he moves his mouth or blinks his eyes, there’s an eerie, uncanny quality at play. He starts to look less like a living, breathing human and more like a video game character – or even the lead character in this year’s Alita: Battle Angel. Alita never looked fully real in that movie, but it worked in that context – after all, she’s a cyborg. But Smith’s Junior is supposed to be flesh and blood.
None of this is Smith’s fault. The actor does the best he can with the clunky, humorless script from David Benioff, Billy Ray, and Darren Lemke. Smith has always had charisma to burn, and Lee was wise to cast him here, because Gemini Man has to coast almost entirely on that charisma. He brings a rough weariness to Henry and a conflicted tenderness to Junior that still manages to shine through all that damn CGI.
Along his journey, Henry is aided by Danny Zakarweski Mary Elizabeth Winstead, another agent accidentally caught up in this mess. There was a time when Winstead’s character would be little more than a tag-along – a hapless, helpless female character that Smith would have to save over and over again. But Gemini Man makes the smart choice of having Winstead’s Danny be more than able to handle herself, and she gets to kick as much ass as Smith. Progress!
Henry and Danny are also helped by Henry’s old pal Baron, a woefully underwritten character saved by a lively, if underused, Benedict Wong. Baron is more plot device than character – he exists because he knows how to fly a plane, and the story requires Henry to fly all over Europe at the drop of a hat. You keep waiting for the character to have a big moment to shine – but it never comes.
All of this cloning and mayhem has been orchestrated by Clay Varris, an evil government spy played by a sleepy, bored Clive Owen. There’s a lot of talk about how twisted and cold-hearted Varris is, but Owen plays him so low-key and lifeless that he makes for an ultimately drab villain. Varris’ plan to eliminate Henry begins to take on all the trappings of a Bourne sequel, where he bickers with other government agents behind-the-scenes about who to kill next. It’s all so boring that you might want to go ahead and take a bathroom break during these scenes.
The only time Gemini Man really comes alive is during its big action scenes. Lee stages many of these in brightly lit locals, all the better to highlight the High Frame Rate he shot the film in – a technique which looks like big-screen motion smoothing, and one which filmmakers should strop trying to make happen. There are several big set pieces including a motorcycle chase where the two Smiths are literally chucking their bikes at each other. But even these action scenes falter, particularly when Lee has his characters pull off the impossible. On more than one occasion Junior’s acrobatics make him look more like a rubber doll than a human being, and one specific moment where Henry does the world’s most powerful push-up – one that literally launches his entire body off the ground as if it were a spring – is so damn silly looking that it’s surprising it made it into the final film.
The video game comparisons come into play here, too. Not only do many of the action scenes get bogged down in digital nonsense, Lee often cuts to POV shots with the camera mounted on the barrel of whatever gun Henry happens to be holding, thus moving the camera along with the weapon. The end result looks exactly like a moment lifted from a first-person shooter game.
Lee is a daring filmmaker and deserves credit for trying new things visually with Gemini Man. But it would’ve been better off for everyone if he had stopped to think about the story as well. There’s a lot of psychological material to mine from this premise – a man literally coming face to face with himself. But Gemini Man only gives that material a cursory glance, and then it’s on to the next action scene drowning in digital drudgery. There’s nothing wrong with a middle-of-the-road action pic, but you can tell Gemini Man wants to be something much bigger, and better. It isn’t.
The actor discussed his latest role and the advice he'd ask his younger self on 'The Late Show.'
Ahead of the Gemini Man release date, Will Smith stopped by The Late Show With Stephen Colbert on Tuesday to chat with host Stephen Colbert about the challenges of starring opposite himself: he plays the role of a veteran assassin who faces off against his younger clone.
"What he did with this film is really spectacular," Smith said of director Ang Lee. "He's trying to create a new reason for people to go to movie theaters."
The actor added that his latest project should be viewed in 3D, joking "it's not your daddy's 3D."
As for fighting against his younger self in the film, Smith noted what audience goers will see is "the first-ever 100 percent digital human" adding that "it isn't de-aging. It's not me playing the character... It's a 100 percent digital character."
The fully-CG younger clone of Smith's character wasachievedby the team at Peter Jackson's Weta Digital using performance capture and the most advanced digital techniques.
Early reviews of the movie indicated a lukewarm reaction from critics. The Hollywood Reporter'sStephen Daltonarguedthat the film is a "significant leap forward for visual effects but a backward step for gripping, sophisticated thrillers."
To accurately portray a younger version of Smith, Lee looked back at the actor's youthful projects such as Six Degrees of Separation and Men In Black. However, one of Smith's most iconic roles wasn't at the top of Lee's list to utilize.
"For Fresh Prince, he's looking at my character and says, 'I don't want any of that in my movie,'" Smith joked.
When asked by the late night host if there's some advice he'd like to give to his younger self, Smith shared he'd rather turn that scenario around.
"I feel like that younger version of me, there's a certain naivety to youth that is powerful. When you don't know something, you're aggressive," Smith said. "I would ask my young self for advice... For the last two years, I've been trying to recapture that youthful fearlessness."
Such fearlessness includes the actor bungee jumping out of a helicopter to celebrate his 50th birthday, an act that Smith says "was probably the scariest thing I've done in 25 years."
The actor also discussed recently celebrating the opening of Tyler Perry's new studio in Atlanta, Georgia.
"It was really a spectacular evening," Smith said of the gala. As for learning that a sound stage was dedicated to him, he added "I was happy with mine... then I saw Oprah's."
Smith joked that the media mogul has been famous for so long that whomever is around her often ends up becoming her personal assistant. "You have to help Oprah," Smith said. "I've seen Barack get Oprah something to eat."
Gemini Man, which premiered in Los Angeles on Monday, hits theaters on Oct. 11.
After butting-heads with movie theaters, Netflix has decided to get creative with Martin Scorsese‘s The Irishman. Most theater chains demand a specific window between theatrical screenings and streaming release, but Netflix doesn’t give a damn about that. Since Netflix isn’t willing to play ball, many theater chains are refusing to screen The Irishman. But Netflix wants this film to have an awards season presence, which means it has to play theatrically somewhere. The solution: playing the movie at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway in New York City all through November.
The Irishman is headed to Broadway, but not as a musical adaptation. Instead, Netflix has booked the Martin Scorsese crime epic at the historic Belasco Theatre in NYC from November 1 through December 1. It’s the first time the Broadway theatre has screened a film, and to make sure the quality is up to snuff, Netflix will be bringing in “state of the art equipment” to the theatre to screen the movie.
“We’ve lost so many wonderful theaters in New York City in recent years, including single house theaters like the Ziegfeld and the Paris,” said Scorsese. “The opportunity to recreate that singular experience at the historic Belasco Theatre is incredibly exciting. Ted Sarandos, Scott Stuber, and their team at Netflix have continued to find creative ways to make this picture a special event for audiences and I’m thankful for their innovation and commitment.”
Scott Stuber, head of Netflix Film, added: “It’s an immense honor for The Irishman to be welcomed to the Belasco – an iconic and historic landmark fit for Scorsese’s latest cinematic achievement.”
The schedule of screenings at the Belasco Theatre will mirror the traditional Broadway model: eight performances a week, playing Tuesday through Sunday evenings, with matinees on Saturday and Sunday. There will be no Monday screenings because theatres are traditionally dark on Mondays because just like Garfield, actors hate Mondays.
Taking The Irishman to Broadway helps Netflix screen the movie theatrically in order for it to earn Academy Award consideration. Movie theater chains primarily require a 74-to-90-day window between theatrical screenings and streaming release. But Netflix plans to release The Irishman on their streaming platform on November 27, 2019, less than a month after its November 1 theatrical release date. Netflix and Scorsese tried to reason with theater chains to work out a deal, but most chains would not budge. As a result, Netflix will have to rent their own venus which is referred to as “four-walling” or book the movie in non-chain movie theaters. So if you’re aching to see Scorsese’s latest masterpiece in theaters, you might want to head to the Great White Way.
Tickets for The Irishman at the Belasco Theatre will be $15 plus processing fees and will be available through Telecharge. Tickets go on sale next week.
As we head into the second week of the 57th annual New York Film Festival, let’s look back at the best that week 1 of the festival had to offer us.
The prestigious film festival kicked off on a strong note with Martin Scorsese’s latest mob masterpiece, The Irishman, and only kept it up from there. Nadav Lapid‘s maddening Israeli-French immigrant drama Synonyms confused but impressed, while Kelly Reichardt’s offbeat and tender frontier drama First Cow has a very good cow. Dive into our New York Film Festival 2019 Week 1 recap.
“Is this death?”
When Tom Mercier‘s young Israeli man is awakened by a Parisian couple who find him freezing and naked in an empty upstairs apartment, he dispassionately asks if he has died. He is very much alive, but his encounter with this young couple becomes the funeral pyre for the country and national identity that he wishes to leave behind. Mercier gives a muscular, tidal wave of a performance as Yoav, a young Israeli man who flees to Paris armed with little but a dictionary. Determined to abandon his national identity, Yoav refuses to utter a word of Hebrew from then on, speaking only in a stilted, poetic French aided by his dictionary.
Yoav gets a job as a security guard at the Israeli embassy, but refuses to befriend his fellow Hebrew-speaking coworkers. He ignores his parents’ pleas to return home. Instead, he ingratiates himself into the lives of the young Parisian couple who found him, striking up an easy, near-romantic connection with Emile Quentin Dolmaire, an accomplished writer who find Yoav’s life story infinitely more interesting than his, and a hostile, sexual relationship with Caroline Louise Chevilotte. Yoav is almost alien in his interactions with these two and everyone else around him, blatantly refusing to abide by society’s rules and testing the amount of times he can scream in people’s faces on the subway without getting arrested he never does. But his anarchic actions only get more mysterious, while the society around him becomes more amenable — even jaded — to his outbursts.
Lacking any kind of concrete narrative structure and featuring characters that are nearly all ciphers, Nadav Lapid‘s turbulent, tremulous French-Israeli drama based on his real-life experiences is a maddening, baffling, and alienating portrait of radicalism without a purpose. It keeps its audience at arm’s length, existing in a kind of emotional purgatory where the raging whirlwind of passion, anger and misplaced nationalism exist underneath a stoic surface. Synonyms is an always-challenging, frequently hilarious film that almost exists as a satire of cultural stereotypes, probing your own preconceptions about what it means to exist in a globalized society.
/Film Rating: 7.5 out of 10
Martin Scorsese delivers his mob magnum opus with The Irishman, a sprawling crime epic that manages to be brutally funny, coldly thrilling, and startling sad all at once. The legendary director directs what can be most simply described as a “greatest hits” of his esteemed career — in the best possible way. Reuniting with his longtime stars and friends Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci, and working with established star of the genre Al Pacino for the first time, Scorsese looks back at his legacy of violent mob movies to create a moving, elegiac rumination on the effects of a life inextricably tied crime.
In one of the film’s most polarizing choices, Scorsese uses de-aging technology to follow De Niro throughout the years as mob hitman Frank Sheeran, the titular Irishman with longtime ties to the Bufalino crime family who may have killed former Teamster president Jimmy Hoffa a deliriously, deliciously outsized Pacino. The film opens on an aged Sheeran, confined to a wheelchair in a nursing home, as he enthusiastically launches into a story about his career as a hitman, recounting the early glory days of his rise through the Bufalino ranks after he strikes up a friendship with the local Philadelphia gangster Russell Bufalino Pesci, in a soul-stirringly understated performance.
While the first hour is a little awkward, thanks in part to the clunky de-aging technology that takes nearly takes one out of the film, once it settles into its rhythm, The Irishman reveals itself to be a profoundly elegant, melancholic masterpiece that unfolds like a dreamlike memory — a little whimsical, a little wry, and always a tiny bit sad. With De Niro, Pesci, and Pacino giving exquisite — in some parts, career-best — performances, Scorsese ruminates on mortality in genre that has always treated death as an afterthought.
/Film Rating: 9 out of 10
Calling First Cow a buddy comedy wouldn’t do justice to Kelly Reichardt‘s strange, offbeat character drama about two frontiersmen who steal milk to start a baking business. The deep connection that is struck between John Magaro‘s mild-mannered cook and Orion Lee‘s shrewd Chinese immigrant is nigh romantic, with the pair’s sweet interactions forming the beating heart to the Richardt’s tender frontier fable.
The Meek’s Cutoff director returns to the wilds of Oregon for this loose adaptation of frequent Riechardt collaborator Jon Raymond’s novel The High Life, a book that the director has said made her want to work with him in the first place. The film takes place in the 1820s, just as the Royal West Pacific Trading Post receives its first dairy cow, imported to an isolated camp by its one wealthy resident Toby Jones. But to the cow owner’s misfortune, and to the impoverished settlement’s luck, Cookie Figowitz Magaro and King Lu Lee, start to steal the cow’s milk to bake “oily cakes” — a backwoods riff on scones that becomes an instant sensation for the rugged pioneers starved for reminders of home.
First Cow is a laughably low stakes drama that plays on the intense expectations set for these kind of pioneer films, instead focusing on the lovely relationship between Cookie and King as they dream of making enough money to strike out west and settle down together. Magaro is an adorable scene-stealer as the wholesome Cookie who whispers words of encouragement to the very good cow, and dreams only of baked confections and opening his own shop. Lee’s shrewd King Lu could easily teeter into exploitative, but he treats Cookie with such a warmth that their connection is indisputable. Their subtextual romance is cemented in the opening scene of the film, in which a nameless woman in modern-day Oregon stumbles upon two skeletons lying side by side, holding hands. It casts a profound sadness over the entire film, which is as dryly funny as it is sweet, but adds much-needed depth to the decidedly slim narrative.
Netflix is refusing to play by the rules yet again. Stymied by the big theater chains, the streamer has booked Broadway’s Belasco Theatre for its November 1 opening of Martin Scorsese’s epic “The Irishman” for one of several New York theatrical dates. The three-and-a-half-hour mafia drama starring Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, which grabbed kudos when it opened the New York FIlm Festival, will play at the Shubert Organization’s historic midtown theater through December 1.
Netflix will install state-of-the-art film equipment for this first-ever movie showing in the 1,016-seat theater. Since the Belasco’s opening in 1907 its storied stage plays include “A Raisin in the Sun,” “Oh! Calcutta!,” “American Buffalo,” and most recently “Network.” Moving into the theater after “The Irishman” will be Conor McPherson’s Bob Dylan musical “Girl from the North Country,” which starts previews in February.
As befits a Broadway presentation, “The Irishman” will show eight times a week — Tuesday through Saturday nights, with matinees on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Tickets are $15, plus processing fees. Broadway is enjoying a boom year and New Yorkers will likely flock to this opportunity to see a 209-minute movie without intermission from Little Italy’s own Scorsese, even if the seats may not offer the same comfort level as many contemporary cinemas.
Joe Pesci, Al Pacino, Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, and Harvey Keitel at the Opening Night Gala and world premiere of “The Irishman.”
“We’ve lost so many wonderful theaters in New York City in recent years, including single-house theaters like the Ziegfeld and the Paris,” Scorsese said in a statement. “The opportunity to recreate that singular experience at the historic Belasco Theatre is incredibly exciting. Ted Sarandos, Scott Stuber, and their team at Netflix have continued to find creative ways to make this picture a special event for audiences and I’m thankful for their innovation and commitment.”
Indeed. Netflix’s marketing team is growing more sophisticated about turning the streamer’s premium awards-bound features into must-see events via festival showings and big-screen theatrical runs. As is always the case with Netflix Original features, “The Irishman” will head to streaming on November 27 shortly after its initial theatrical date.
This is the first announcement of theaters showing “The Irishman.” Netflix has been courting exhibitors, but has been met with resistance from the top national and regional theater chains. It remains to be seen how many chains are willing to book Netflix’s robust fall slate, even though circuit AMC often arranges rental dates for films that don’t hold to the 90-day exclusive window. Netflix four-walls many of their indie theater bookings and will continue to find dates from circuits like Landmark, Alamo Drafthouse, and other independents that previously played “Roma,” “The Laundromat,” and this week’s “Dolemite Is My Name.”
But these efforts are piecemeal and leave some significant cities and towns around the country uncovered. With “The Irishman” earning great reviews amid heavy awards talk for Scorsese, De Niro, Pesci and Pacino, the expectation is that if theaters can be found, audiences will come.
New York is a key location for reaching Oscar voters. Los Angeles also offers a variety of possibilities, including theaters that played “Roma” for weeks. Not playing “Roma” was the Arclight Theater in Hollywood, which would seem ideal for “The Irishman,” along with Westwood’s The Landmark. Arclight has theaters in the area as well as other cities nationally, and has in the past gone against the National Association of Theater Owners’ preferred policy of not playing films that violate windows. But so far, that does not extend to Netflix.
It’s likely that Arclight will stick with the chains’ collective refusal to play Netflix. While the American Cinematheque’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood is still negotiating with Netflix for future investment, renovation and involvement, there is no deal in place and if it does go through, Netflix would not use the Egyptian for theatrical bookings but for premieres and promotional events. “Dolemite is My Name” played there last week as part of a film festival.
Could renting a stage theatre allow Netflix to finally break into France, where “Roma” was barred from playing a single cinema? The Belasco marks a throwback to the beginning of the industry, when in 1915 Epoch Producing Corporation searched for large auditoriums for the hordes of moviegoers eager to see Hollywood’s first blockbuster, D.W. Griffith’s controversial “The Birth of a Nation.” A film historian like Scorsese appreciates the irony of returning to exhibition’s roots just as the viewing experience keeps evolving.