Even though Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” has a 65 on Rotten Tomatoes, early audiences are loving it. The movie, written by Richard Curtis, supposes that through a film trick no one’s ever heard of the Beatles except the movie’s hero. He walks around singing their songs and becomes a huge star. Everyone thinks they’re his songs, from title track to “Hey Jude” and all the major hits.
The idea of this, which was corralled by Sony ATV Music Chairman Martin Bandier, was too good to pass up. He got Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison to sign off on it. But Beatles songs are rarely heard in movies or commercials. When “Baby You’re a Rich Man” opened “The Social Network,” David Fincher and co. paid over $1 million for the rights just to that song. (I reported that.)
But in “Yesterday,” we’re not hearing the original Beatles master recordings. The Fab Four isn’t singing or playing. It’s the movie’s star, Himesh Patel, who sings them all right up to the end– 17 songs.
So what does it cost to hear Patel sing the Beatles? According to my sources, I can confirm that the total was between $4.5 million and $5 million. That’s a substantial part of the movie’s budget, which is why there are no stars (save for Kate McKinnon, who I consider a super star!) If the songs had been sung by the Beatles, the price would have been too high for any filmmaker.
Bandier’s deal with the filmmakers is a win win for the Beatles. Not only do their songs get new exposure to a younger crowd, but the Beatles’ original records are back on the charts. The group’s bestselling “1” album of hits is back on iTunes today at number 45. And that’s a win win for all of us, too!