The same number of Beatles attended my own bar mitzvah than attended the U.K. premiere of the Let it Be film — which was 42 years ago today on May 20, 1970, in both London and Liverpool.
And that number — sadly for me, certainly — was precisely zero. (It wasn’t the last time all four bypassed a Let it Be-related event, either).
Did this constitute the world premiere? Depends on who you ask.
Search the Google, and the world premiere was in New York a week earlier, on May 13, 1970. The same search refuses to actually name a theater (although in some instances, I’ve seen that the film was at multiple theaters across the city that day with no one location having a proper red-carpet premiere).
Furthermore, according to Keith Badman’s research in The Beatles: After the Break-Up 1970-2000, every reference to a May 13 premiere in the Big Apple is sourced from an Apple Corps press release.
“The film Let It Be will, in Britain, be simultaneously premiered in both London and Liverpool on May 20, and, under the distribution agreement with United Artists, the film will open in New York on May 13 and will be shown in 100 cities all over the world! Let It Be is described by United Artists as a ‘Bioscopic Experience’.”
But the New York premiere, he writes, never happened, and the film was to open May 28.
The London and Liverpool premieres, however, did happen.
Back to Badman:
The Let It Be film opens today in Britain with special simultaneous Gala North-South premiere events. In the South, crowds surge upon the London Pavilion where guests include Spike Milligan, Mary Hopkin, Julie Felix, Sir Joseph Lockwood, Richard Lester, Simon Dee, Julie Edge and Lulu. Not to mention fifty dancing members of the Hare Krishna group and various members of The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac pop groups. Most noticeable in the crowd are women no longer involved with The Beatles, John’s ex-wife Cynthia Lennon and, two years after her split from Paul, the actress Jane Asher. Before entering the cinema, Spike is playfully pictured by the press, alongside the police, trying to hold back the large excited crowds.
At the conclusion of its first week at the 1,004-seat cinema, where Let It Be was screened a total of 41 times, the film nets approximately £ 6,229. Brian Millwood, on behalf of UA, announces: “We’re happy with the start made by the film. It’s by no means the biggest take for the house, but it’s nevertheless good.”
Let It Be will run at the London Pavilion for five weeks until Tuesday June 23, when it is replaced by the Mick Jagger film Ned Kelly. Meanwhile in Liverpool, the northern premiere takes place with a comparatively quiet, invitation only, event at the Gaumont in Camden Street, London Road. (The screenings at both cinemas commence at 8:45pm.) Let It Be will eventually go on to be released in 100 major cities around the world.
The film received mixed reviews and has a love-hate relationship with fans as well as the group (probably more hate than love). But the importance of the film and these sessions in the band’s — and music history (see: Rooftop) — can’t be diminished.
Also, see: This blog, more than 40 years later.