Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Closed Circuit Beatles

After the Ed Sullivan Show performances in February of 1964, the next opportunity for your average American Beatlemaniac to see the Beatles perform would have been at the movie theater watching the Beatles Washington D.C. concert at the Coliseum on a closed circuit broadcast on March 14 or 15, 1964.   When you think about it, this was a really great way for a large amount of fans to see a full Beatles concert in a concert-like setting with other fans.  Plus it was a concert that had been live just a month earlier, so it was still very relevant.    This was the first time in history that the closed-circuit was used for a concert.  Previously, it had only been used to show boxing matches.

The Beatles concert was a 90 minute film.   Besides the Beatles, there was also a concert by Lesley Gore and the Beach Boys on the bill.   These were three separate concerts.   Somehow over time, a few Beatle books have said that Lesley Gore and the Beach Boys were the opening act for the Beatles Washington D.C. concert.    The Beatles opening acts were not shown on this film, but the two concerts by Miss Gore and the Beach Boys were.    It was broadcasted over telephone lines to select theaters in the United States in Canada.   It was shown on either Saturday March 14, 1964 twice or March 15, 1964 twice, although in a very few locations it was shown four times over both days.   In the list of 100 locations where the film was broadcasted, I found it interesting that the Washington D.C. Coliseum was listed!   Fans who couldn't go to the original concert, could watch the concert on a screen right where it took place OR even better yet fans who were at the original concert could go and see themselves on the big screen in the very place the concert occurred! 

 It is said that 500,000 fans in the U.S. and Canada went to see the Beatles closed circuit performance.   Although it is difficult to say how many individual fans went to see it.   The 500,000 number is the amount of tickets that were sold, but many fans went to both the morning and the afternoon showing and so they were counted twice.    The company that was behind the closed circuit show, National General Corporation, must have been pleased because they made 4 million dollars that weekend 50 years ago.

Fans who packed into the movie theaters and other various venues to see the Beatles perform acted like any Beatlemaniac would have if they were seeing the Beatles live and in person.   There was plenty of screaming, crying and fainting.  Some fans reported that they couldn't hear the concert over the fans screaming, but that it was a wonderful time.    Fans also dress in their new Beatles gear for the show.  There were plenty of Beatles sweatshirts and buttons worn as well as Beatles wigs.   And of course the newspaper reporters and photographers were on hand to report about this wild and crazy Beatlemania going on. 

This closed circuit performance of the Washington D.C. concert was just a small blip in the history of the Beatles, but it was the first time a pay per view concert had occurred and it is worth remembering.   The concert fell into obscurity for many years until it started to show up at Beatle conventions and on grey release VHS and DVDs.   A few years back it was available through itunes if you bought $150 worth of Beatles music.     I would bet that for those fans who saw it over those two days in March of 1964, it was a great time!

Much of the information for this article came from this Pop History article. 


  1. absolute MASTERPIECE!!!! And I can't believe you have all of these photos from this one tiny blip in Beatle history!

    I tell you the truth, I sing songs about this blog!!!!! I remember it at Thanksgiving dinner! I'm going to remember it in my will!!!

    THANK you! This is why I wake up in the morning!!

  2. I'm from Victoria B.C Canada, and if I'm not mistaken, that's our old Memorial Arena in that the heck did you get that picture?

    1. The photo of Memorial area was in the Times Colonist. Surprisingly the show was not a sellout in Victoria. I have a ticket stub and a newspaper ad for the event.

  3. I attended the one in Chicago, I think at the Oriental Therater on Randolph street in Downtown. I was interviewed by the Chicago Suntimes under my stage name of Johnny York as I resembeld Paul McCartney at 22 years of age. A group of girls saw me and started screaming Paul. Two Chicago policemen escorted me to a safe area at the time. I am trying to get a copy of the news Item. at the time I later recorded a record with the Beatles on it. A novelty record called Mighty the Squirrel Meets the Beatles. That can be seen on You Tube under my name of John W. Allen. I made the record for my sister and a magazine article about how I made that record is on my website at mushroomjohn dot com under My Record. With a free download of the record I recorded, engineered and edited and distributed. Enjoy for those who love the Beatles.

    At the time, like the Elvis phenomena, All of my school mates made fun of me for liking the Beatles. Most were jealous that their many girl friends paid more attention to the Beatles than they did their boyfriends. But 'what the hay!' When I went to see the Beatles in Person at the Chicago International Amphitheatre was a blast. It was an indoor arena located in Chicago, Illinois, between 1934 and 1999. It was located on the west side of Halsted Street, Next tot he Chicago Stockyards it usually carried a smell of dead beef and stunk. But at the Beatles show, there were approximately 13,000 screaming wet their pants girls and about 100 guys. I was one of those and I met some cool girls I dated for a while. So, being one of a few in a multitude of many beautiful chicky-poohs, well that was okay by me no matter how much I was teased for being a Beatles fan by my friends. And my sister, whom I loved very much got one of Paul McCartney's hotel bed sheets and later sold one inch cuttings for a $1.00 each per square inch piece of that sheet on one of the many teen fab magazines of the time. I made that Mighty the Squirrel record for her.

  4. I wanted to mention that I believe this was broadcast to the theaters in a process known as Electonovision, filmed with 9 cameras. I could be wrong. At the moment I am trying to find the newspaper article about me at that concert. However I cannot remember as it was so long ago.

  5. I also want to let all know if they wish to hear my record and a magazine article about How I made a record with the Beatles on it for my sister, that is posted at my website at mushroomjohn dot org. I am not sure if I could post the url together. Once at my sites index, click [my record] to hear it. One side is already on You Tube as well, but the article on me also has a photo of me at 22 when I looked a lot like Paul. Especially like he did on the cover of the VJ record album released in 1963. with Please Please me and From Me to You.