As marketing stunts go, Netflix delivers some good ones. On Friday and Saturday of last week, the streaming platform reached deep into its seemingly bottomless bags of money and threw a party throughout much of Little Italy to promote its soon-to-be-streaming Martin Scorsese, Robert de Niro, and Al Pacino gangster epic, The Irishman. Thousands lined up on Mulberry Street for free food at area restaurants, there were pseudo-vintage 1960s political and union stickers plastered throughout the neighborhood, a fleet of old Caddies, and plenty of references to the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa, who went missing in the summer of 1975.
The latter event, climactic in the movie, provided much fodder for an impressively extensive eight-page broadsheet available for free from newspaper boxes in front of each participating restaurant, or hawked by anachronistic "newsies." In addition to extensive Hoffa coverage, The Irishman Daily featured stories on the MTA fare hike to fifty cents, Billy Martin's return to the Yankees as manager, Springsteen releasing Born to Run, an op-ed saying Pass the ERA, and an amusing Classified section filled with references from the movie.
The Irishman Daily also featured a map of where you could get free food, though given the inevitable long lines at each spot, it was all pretty easy to figure out. Parm handed out 400 of their Roast Beef Sandwiches on Saturday (the meat sliced thin, topped with mozzarella and hot peppers, and served on a toasted, seeded garlic hero, these are available daily at the UWS and BPC Parms and are superb), Sal's Little Italy gave away like 1,600 slices, and Caffe Roma were stuffing their cannoli non-stop all day to handle the crowds.
Other participants in the stunt included Manero's Pizza, Parisi Bakery on Mott, the "oldest cheese shop in America" Alleva Dairy, Barber's Blueprint (15 free haircuts or beard trims each day), Ferrara Bakery, Mulberry Wine and Liquor (passing out free bottles of wine), and Di Palo's Fine Foods. Not included in the festivities: Umberto's Clam House, allegedly owned by Matty the Horse in 1972 when Joey Gallo got gunned down inside, the recreation of which is another key scene in the movie. Obviously, Netflix picked up the tab for everything, and forced you to say "Jimmy sent me" to each proprietor before you could get your freebie.
And when people weren't eating or waiting on line, they were taking pictures of each other inside four old-school phone booths set up on Grand Street. These were great, with all the details right including a ceiling fan and trash on the floor, but instead of making a call you watched a mini-trailer of the movie. Or didn't watch because you were too busy posing for a photo. Four black Cadillacs were also on this block, with four "drivers" who would let you in the back street and talk about 1975 stuff. This was more fun than it sounds.
The only thing Netflix didn't think of, apparently, was that thousands of people getting single servings of take-out food and eating it right there on the street would need a place to throw out all of their trash—the standard municipal garbage cans were no match for the huge increase. Unless maybe they were trying to recreate the great Garbage Strike of 1975?
The Irishman is still playing at select theaters (the IFC, Williamsburg, Cobble Hill, Nitehawk, Landmark) and will begin streaming on Netflix this Wednesday, November 27th. It's an excellent movie, possibly my favorite of the year.