The Beatles‘ final film, Let It Be, showed a tired band in the midst of a breakup. That didn’t mean the musicians weren’t having a good time. They were just concentrating on learning and rehearsing new music. Peter Jackson found the fun in the tedium of discovery and Walt Disney Studios bought the worldwide distribution rights. Executive Chairman Bob Iger announced that Disney will release the documentary The Beatles: Get Back in the U.S. and Canada on Sept. 4, 2020. Global release details will follow.
“No band has had the kind of impact on the world that The Beatles have had, and The Beatles: Get Back is a front-row seat to the inner workings of these genius creators at a seminal moment in music history, with spectacularly restored footage that looks like it was shot yesterday,” Iger said in a statement.
Jackson, probably best known for his The Lord of the Rings trilogy, compiled 55 hours of unseen footage from Let It Be director Michael Lindsay-Hogg’s cans and turned it over Park Road Post Production of Wellington, New Zealand. Editor Jabez Olssen will work the same restorative magic he employed on the World War I archival footage Jackson used in his 2018 film They Shall Not Grow Old. Jackson also has access to 140 hours of mostly unheard audio recordings from the Let It Be album sessions.
“Working on this project has been a joyous discovery,” Jackson said in a statement. “I’ve been privileged to be a fly on the wall while the greatest band of all time works, plays and creates masterpieces.”
The music in the film will be mixed by Giles Martin and Sam Okell at Abbey Road Studios in London. Giles is the son of George Martin, who produced all the Beatles’ albums except Let It Be, which was produced by Phil Spector.
“I’m really looking forward to this film,” Ringo Starr said in a statement. “Peter is great and it was so cool looking at all this footage. There was hours and hours of us just laughing and playing music, not at all like the version that came out. There was a lot of joy and I think Peter will show that. I think this version will be a lot more peace and loving, like we really were.”
The original Let It Be film and album sessions were done in January 1969 but came out three weeks after The Beatles officially broke up. The split colored how critics and fans saw the film, in spite of the band releasing their masterful studio finale Abbey Road in September 1969. Jackson’s documentary will showcase the “warmth, camaraderie and humor of the making of the legendary band’s studio album, Let It Be, and their final live concert as a group, the iconic rooftop performance on London’s Savile Row,” according to the press statement.
“I am really happy that Peter has delved into our archives to make a film that shows the truth about The Beatles recording together,” Paul McCartney said in a statement. “The friendship and love between us comes over and reminds me of what a crazily beautiful time we had.”
Built around the three weeks of filming, Let It Be was shot on 16mm, blown up to 35mm, and ran 80 minutes, including an edited version of the London rooftop concert. Shot on Jan. 30, 1969, the surprise set was the first time the band played live to an audience in over two years. The new documentary will include the entire 42-minute performance on the rooftop including “interactions between the band members, reactions from fans and employees from nearby businesses, and comical attempts to stop the concert by two young London policemen responding to noise complaints,” as per the statement.
The Beatles: Get Back also highlights the intimate recording sessions. The documentary “features the only notable footage of the band at work in the studio, capturing John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr as they create their now-classic songs from scratch, laughing, bantering and playing to the camera,” according to the press statement.
The Beatles: Get Back is directed and produced by Jackson, Clare Olssen (They Shall Not Grow Old) and Jonathan Clyde, and executive produced by Ken Kamins and Apple Corps’ Jeff Jones. It also has “the enthusiastic support” of Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison.
“I’m a huge fan myself, so I could not be happier that Disney is able to share Peter Jackson’s stunning documentary with global audiences in September,” Iger said. “I’m thrilled that Disney have stepped up as our distributor,” Jackson added. “There’s no one better to have our movie seen by the greatest number of people.”
For those who think this is just a way revisionist-history attempt to whitewash the last days of the Beatles, rest assured: the original Let It Be film will also be restored and see release at a later date.