Was A Hard Day’s Night Filmed in Black and White to Save Money?

Here is the latest in a series of examinations into urban legends about movies and whether they are true or false. Click here to view an archive of the movie urban legends featured so far.

MOVIE URBAN LEGEND: A Hard Day’s Night was filmed in black and white to save on costs.

As I mentioned in a recent edition of Music Urban Legends Revealed, United Artists signed the Beatles to a movie deal mostly so that they could put out a soundtrack, figuring that they’d recoup the costs of the film with sales of the record album based on the movie alone (an ingenious plan, really), and there was always a chance that the film could be a hit, too!

Of course, the movie ended up becoming a massive hit and United Artists made oodles of cash from both the film AND the soundtrack.

However, before they knew that, United Artists felt that the film was almost an afterthought and the budget reflected this – the entire film was shot on a $500,000 budget, which was small even for 1964.

Based on this fact, many fans have over the years then extrapolated the “fact” that the movie was filmed in black and white was because of this cost-saving approach (as black and white film is significantly cheaper than color film).

Is that true?

No. The director, Richard “Dick” Lester has said for years (and he said at the time, as well) that the black and white approach was one that they went with from the beginning as an artistic approach – the film was to be a mock documentary “day in the life” of the Beatles, and as a result, it called for the same style of ACTUAL documentaries and news coverage of the Beatles which, in 1964, was in black and white.

I’m sure that United Artists was thrilled with the cost benefits of using Lester’s approach, but it was an artistic decision first – not a financial one. With the rate that the Beatles were getting paid and the quick filming schedule, the film could have easily been done for $500,000 with color film being used.

The legend is…


Feel free (heck, I implore you!) to write in with your suggestions for future installments! My e-mail address is bcronin@legendsrevealed.com.

One Response to “Was A Hard Day’s Night Filmed in Black and White to Save Money?”

  1. Another thing to consider was that in 1964 color film stock was much less sensitive to light. So shooting with monochrome was much easier on the cinematographer. Another thing to consider was the fact they used a great deal of “available light” technique…that is shooting with very little supplemental lighting…Black and white film stocks have a much wider “exposure latitude” than color.

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