Washington goes big screen

Apple/iTunes’ exclusive deal with Apple Corps for use of the Washington DC concert ends in February, after which a DVD release seems likely. February 11th 2011, the full March 1964 concert film, including Lesley Gore and the Beach Boys will also be shown theatrically. Possibly as PR for an upcoming official DVD.

A month after the Beatles’ Washington concert, in mid-March 1964, the CBS filming of the Beatles’ live D.C. show – together with separate footage of performances by the Beach Boys and Lesley Gore – was shown in selected U.S. movie theaters as a closed-circuit concert. Billed in advertising as — “The Beatles: Direct From Their First American Concert” — the complete 90-minute film was transmitted over telephone lines to selected U.S. and Canadian theaters in four separate shows — two each day — over the weekend of March 14th and 15th, 1964.

The first round of closed-circuit concerts occurred on Saturday, March 14, 1964, and among the receiving theater locations on that day, for example, were: the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; the Hippodrome Theater in Cleveland, Ohio; the El Monte Legion Stadium in El Monte, California; the Public Auditorium in Portland, Oregon, and many others. The following day, on Sunday, March 15, 1964, the show went out again to a number of locations, including: the Norva Theater in Norfolk, Virginia; Lake Theater in Oak Park, Illinois; Fox Theater in San Jose, California; and the Washington Coliseum in Washington, D.C. The Lyric Theater in Indianapolis, Indiana also received the show on March 14th and March 15th, as did a big screen theater at the State Fair Coliseum in Dallas, Texas.

The total audience for the special closed-circuit broad- casts of the Beatles’ concert film was expected to exceed 500,000. The shows were seen in more than 100 theaters in the U.S. and Canada. The promoters – identified in advertising as the National General Corporation, or their subisidiary, Theater Color Vision — made millions. One 1964 estimate placed the take at some $4 million, or roughly $30 million in today’s money. This Beatles’ concert showing was apprarently the first use of closed-circuit broadcasting for a rock concert, as previously this closed-circuit theater network had been used only for championship boxing matches.

 A master tape of the CBS film of the Beatles’ D.C. concert was auctioned off by “It’s Only Rock and Roll” in 2005 to an unnamed bidder for an unspecified price. Here’s their description: “A variety of poor quality kinescopes trans- ferred to video versions of the concert have circulated on bootlegs, imports and, most recently, as a commercially released DVD. These versions are missing the on-stage announcements and footage of the Beatles running through the audience en route to the stage. In addition, these inferior copies end abruptly midway through ‘Twist & Shout,’ and are totally missing the finale of ‘Long Tall Sally’ and footage of the Beatles leaving the stage. Even the footage seen by millions on the Beatles Anthology series was far removed in picture and sound quality from what fans saw in their local theaters in March 1964.”

“We can unequivocally say that there exists no other videotaped Beatles concert that remotely approaches the quality of this performance by the Beatles at Washington Coliseum.”

It now seems likely that the anonymous bidder may have been Apple Corps, and that this master is the source for the recent iTunes download and the forthcoming cinema release.

The information about these closed circuit concerts is excerpted from an article in the Pop History Dig, available here, where you’ll also find information about the Lesley Gore and Beach Boys footage.

1 Response

  1. Unknown says:

    It goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway); that an uncut, complete DVD release of all three performances would be the DVD release of 2011!

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