April 17, 2024

Let It Be Movie Restored and Streaming on Disney+ 05-08-24

Word started to spread a few days ago, that the Let It Be documentary film from 1970, directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg, was about to finally become available again. Yesterday, I was told that the film will debut on Disney+ in May, and will be released on physical media later this year.

I wrote about it over on my Norwegian Wood blog, and made a mock-up of a blu-ray cover, just as an illustration. Over on Facebook, I published the same picture on the Daily Beatle Facebook page, with no words, as I figured news would be out in an official capacity soon.

I was rewarded just a few hours later, when the official social media accounts of the Beatles displayed the photo teaser seen above, with the sentence “There will be an answer.” Which, of course, is from the lyrics of the song “Let It Be”. And which song did Paul McCartney perform in public just a few days ago at the Jimmy Buffett tribute at the Hollywood Bowl?

People have been asking why do we need the “Let It Be” movie, we have already been given more than seven hours of that era in Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” documentary, which has been available on Disney+ since November 2021.

There are many reasons for “Let It Be” to be available. Remember those few glimpses we get in Jackson’s TV documentary of the 31 January recordings? The day after the rooftop concert? The three songs they recorded then, “Let It Be”, “The Long and Winding Road and “Two Of Us” are represented with complete footage and audio in Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s “Let It Be”. And there are plenty more interruptions of songs in the rooftop segment in Jackson’s documentary. There are lots more interviews with people on the street and much more footage of the police, waiting and eventually going up on the rooftop to stop the show. There are fewer interviews and less police scenes in Lindsay-Hogg’s film, allowing us to enjoy fuller versions of the songs.

For complete satisfaction and an uninterrupted concert though, one has to settle for the album “Get Back (Rooftop Performance)” which is available from several streaming platforms.

It is important that Lindsay-Hogg’s film is available, as it’s one of The Beatles’ films made when they were together, alongside “A Hard Day’s Night”, “Help!”, “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Yellow Submarine”. And it’s important that it is available on a disc, because: Where are those other iconic Beatles films available on streaming platforms? I believe perhaps you might be able to find “A Hard Day’s Night”, but forget about finding the others. Streaming movies are for the mass consumption market for the general public, not for those interested in niches or cult films.

Anyway, you need not worry. Even if the rumours about a physical release should prove to be untrue, bootleggers will make available the film as soon as they have recorded it from Disney+.

Of course now speculations are all about the format, and whether or not Jackson has applied the same method of enhancing the picture quality as he did with “Get Back”, where faces are somewhat plastic looking in places. Will this new release be “Let It Be” as rebuilt by Peter Jackson, sticking to the same scenes as Lindsay-Hogg? In a January 2022 interview, Lindsay-Hogg claims that for the last two or three years, he has been working with the director of photography Tony Richmond on the print, so it looks totally different, and Giles Martin has been working on the soundtrack.

One problem with the original “Let It Be” film is that sometimes the wrong sound was overdubbed, like a different take of the song or you can see an out of place instrument being picked. For the sake of being true to the original, will these flaws be kept in? We’ll find out soon enough.

1969: 16mm footage of the Beatles filmed in January for proposed TV Special and album, “Get Back”. Directed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg.

1969: The Beatles all attend a screening of a rough cut of the movie on July 20. Director Michael Lindsay-Hogg recalled that it was about an hour longer than the released version.

1969: Film and album shelved for now, new album “Abbey Road” recorded and released.

1969-70: Footage reworked for movie screening, to fulfill 3 film contract with United Artists.

1970: Theatrical release. Film has been blown up to 35mm, sound is in mono, retitled “Let It Be”.

1975: BBC 1 shows the film on Boxing Day. 16mm version, mono.

1979: Four years later, BBC 1 again shows the film on Boxing Day. 16mm version, mono.

1980: John Lennon is killed.

1981: Home Video release (USA) of 35mm film pan-and-scan: VHS, Betamax, Laserdisc and Videodisc on 20th Century Fox/Magnetic Video Corporation. Mono.

1982: TV screening (UK) of 16mm cropped version on BBC TV. Mono.

1983: TV screening (West Germany – Bayerische Rundfunk). 16mm version, mono. The film was also shown on TV in several other countries, Finland and Australia among them, but we have no full overview of this. And of course, the film was also shown on TV in the seventies.

1992: Original 16mm film restored by Ron Furmanek for Apple, with remastered sound mixed by Furmanek, assisted by George Martin, in stereo when multitracks exist.

1995: Restored footage from film and outtakes shown on “The Beatles Anthology” TV series.

1997: VCI (UK) announces plans to release “Let It Be” on VHS. It doesn’t happen.

2001: George Harrison succumbs to cancer.

2002: Paul McCartney says plans for DVD release alongside “Let It Be…Naked”.

2003: Original 16mm film plus outtakes restored by Bob Smeaton.

2003: “Let It Be…Naked” album released. Outtakes from “Let It Be” film used in promotion of album. No sign of the film on DVD.

2003: Movie director Lindsay-Hogg says 2 DVDs with the film and outtakes ready for 2004.

2004: A review of a 3 disc version appears online.

2005: “The Toronto Sun” features interview with Bob Smeaton who says a DVD will come out that year.

2006: In a US radio show, Bob Smeaton gives three possible release dates in 2006 for the DVD.

2007: Apple Corps Ltd register the domain name letitbemovie.com.

2007: Neil Aspinall says the film is still too controversial for release.

2008: Yoko Ono says the DVD will not be released yet.

2008: “The Daily Express” (UK) says DVD was cancelled by Paul and Ringo.

2009: Unidentified “insider” claims Yoko Ono is the one blocking the release.

2009: Theatrical screening at a film club in Philadelphia, PA. Good print, poor mono sound.

2010: BBC radio show says DVD is still considered for release at a future date.

2011: Original film and outtakes re-transferred again in higher resolution for future release.

2012: Film due out for 50th anniversary of “Love Me Do”, but plans are again scrapped.

2012: Richard Porter learns from insider that the film may be released in 2014 or 2015.

2012: Ringo says: “One day that will come out, but we’re not thinking about it right now”.

2013: The “Let It Be…Naked” album released on iTunes and two videos made available for download: “Get Back” and “Don’t Let Me Down” – both compiled in 2003 of outtakes from the original “Let It Be” movie.

2013: “Help!”, “Magical Mystery Tour” and “Yellow Submarine” restored and released on Blu-ray.

2014: “A Hard Day’s Night” released on Blu-ray.

2015: Ringo confirms that “Let It Be” will eventually be released, just not this year.

2015: The last 34 minutes of Furmanek’s unpublished 1992 restoration uploaded on YouTube

2015: Apple releases a collection of The Beatles’ promotional films on Blu-ray and DVD. The material from “Let It Be” looks unrestored. This triggers speculation that Apple saves the restored version for a later stand-alone release.

2016: Bootleg company HMC releases the 1992 restoration of the film on a DVD+CD package in NTSC and an aspect ratio of 4:3, with the lower part of the picture cropped.

2016: Paul tells Rolling Stone that he keeps promoting a release of the film internally.

2017: In an interview with the film’s Cinematographer Tony Richmond in February, it was revealed that “Since then, we remastered it for DVD and there were so many outtakes that weren’t used in the film that really show the acrimony between all of the Beatles. But that’s still being held up by George Harrison’s estate and his wife and Yoko Ono because they don’t want the acrimony shown.”

2018: A new movie is being planned: In an interview with a radio station in Quebec, Canada in September, Paul McCartney was asked about the fate of the Beatles’ “Let It Be” film. “We keep talking about that,” Paul confirmed, “we have meetings at Apple”. Paul thinks there is “some talk” about making a new movie, re-editing it from the same footage. “Who knows, that may be happening in a year or two,” Paul concludes, obviously knowing a lot more about the subject.

2019: In January, in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the rooftop concert, The Beatles announced that a new film will be made, culled from the 55 hours of Get Back film footage available. The new film will be directed by Sir Peter Jackson. A release date is not announced, but the announcement says that a restored original “Let It Be” film will also be made available in conjunction with the new film. However, while there were plans to show the new documentary in cinemas starting in 2020, no plans were made to screen the original “Let It Be” film that year.

2020: On December 20,  Peter Jackson introduced a “sneak peek” – teaser for the upcoming film. The footage looks better than ever before. During the pandemic, the film has morphed into a TV series, Jackson keeps adding more and more footage in order to tell the whole story of the “Let It Be” album in his series.

2021: On June 17, 2021, it was announced that the Peter Jackson film is not going to theatres after all, it will be expanded to three two hour episodes and will debut on the Disney+ channel on November 25, 26 and 27. No word about the fate of the original “Let It Be” film.

2022: The Get Back series debuts on DVD and blu-ray in the States, only blu-ray elsewhere. A faulty first run is recalled and it takes time to ship the replacement discs. Meanwhile, several bootleggers have released their own product featuring the series, with more languages available as subtitles than the official product, and bonus material, sometimes including the full “Let It Be” film.

2022: In an interview with Cigar Aficionado, Michael Lindsay-Hogg says that “Let It Be” will come out, but he is unsure of how. “For the last two or three years, the director of photography Tony Richmond and I have been working on the print, so it looks totally different and Giles Martin has been working on the soundtrack”.

2023: In August, the U.S. Beatles fanzine Beatlefan reported of an upcoming relaunch of “Let It Be” that it was exactly as it originally was in 1970 with an upgraded soundtrack made possible by Jackson’s crew, remixed by Giles Martin and Paul Hicks. At the same time, Michael Lindsay-Hogg said in an interview that he was hoping for the relaunch to happen in 2023 or early 2024.

2024: Let It Be finally becomes available on the Disney+ streaming platform in May.

See also this timeline explained in detail here.