Fans who see The Beatles: Eight Days a Week-The Touring Years in theaters will get an extra present from the Fab Four. In what is believed to be a first, the theatrical release of the Ron Howard-directed documentary will be accompanied by 30 minutes of rare footage from the Beatles’ historic 1965 Shea Stadium concert.
Abramorama Entertainment founder Richard Abramowitz, who has placed specialty films in theaters since 1984, says this is the first time he’s handled a movie with extras tagged for the theatrical release only.
“My feeling is the extra footage is not necessarily to lure people out; The Beatles have a strong enough appeal,” Abramowitz says, adding that the showings only need a 25 perecent occupancy to break even. “It’s more like, ‘You think you’re going to have fun? You don’t even know. Watch this!’ No one’s heard [Shea] sound like this. It’s an unmatchable asset.”
Eight Days a Week arrives in approximately 80 theaters for a Sept. 15 one-night-only sneak peek, followed by a full-week engagement in 50 theaters starting Sept. 16. A Hulu run starts Sept. 17. The Shea film will not be included on Hulu or the DVD release.
“I’ve worked on a lot of documentaries, like [the George Harrison film] Living in the Material World and, oftentimes, a theatrical release is a bit of an afterthought,” since most of the effort goes to finding a cable or SVOD partner, says Nigel Sinclair, whose White Horse Pictures partnered with Howard’s Imagine Entertainment and The Beatles’ Apple Corps Ltd. to release Eight Days. “So I thought, why don’t we have a theatrical extra?”
Sinclair and Apple Corps chief executive Jeff Jones discussed options and, ultimately, “went with the obvious one that was staring us in the face,” Sinclair says. The Shea footage features 30 minutes of the momentous 50-minute Aug. 15, 1965, performance, the first rock concert staged in a stadium. Incredibly sparse by today’s standards, The Beatles played on a small stage on the field with no bells and whistles. George Martin’s son Giles and Sam Okell remastered the film at Abbey Road Studios, reducing the original decibel level of the screaming young female fans that rendered The Beatles almost inaudible. The concert aired on ABC-TV in 1967, but otherwise has been unavailable except for upgraded snippets in such sanctioned projects as 1995’s The Beatles Anthology, a few short YouTube clips, and via bootleggers.
Apple provided the Shea film free of charge for the theatrical run. “They’ve chosen to give it to us. They fixed it and prepared the sound in 5.1 mix,” Sinclair says. “Eight Days a Week is the first feature film from Apple since 1970’s Let It Be, and I think they really wanted to make it special. The Beatles were a very visual group. They were very attractive and exuded a sense of brotherhood. As we’ve become more detached, anything that shows the intimacy of human beings is very attractive.”
Beatles fans have longed for the Shea concert as a home video release, but Sinclair says he has “no idea” if Apple plans to put out the restored Shea show at a later date separate from Eight Days.
The Shea footage “gives customers a sense of urgency that they have to see it now,” says one of the film’s producers, Scott Pascucci. “This will create a buzz and turn them into evangelicals. It broadens the marketing footprint.”
As a companion, Apple/UMe released The Beatles: Live at the Hollywood Bowl, which captures the group’s 1964 and 1965 performances at the legendary venue, on Friday (Sept. 9).