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Elvis: That's the Way It Is is a 1970 American documentary film directed by Denis Sanders. The film documents American singer Elvis Presley's Summer Festival in Las Vegas during August 1970. It was his first non-dramatic film since the beginning of his film career in 1956, and the film gives a clear view of Presley's return to live performances after years of making films. The film was released simultaneously with Presley's similarly titled twelfth studio album, That's the Way It Is.

Elvis: That's the Way It Is
That's the Way It Is.jpg
Cover of special edition DVD
Directed byDenis Sanders
StarringElvis Presley
CinematographyLucien Ballard
Edited byHenry Berman
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • November 11, 1970 (1970-11-11)
Running time
108 minutes
CountryUnited States


The original concept as devised by technical advisor Colonel Tom Parker was in view of Presley's triumphant return to live performances was a closed circuit television presentation of one show.

Although most of the footage takes place onstage at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, there are several other parts to the film:

  • The opening credits sequence contains footage of Presley's show at Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix on September 9, 1970. This was the first show of Presley's first tour in 13 years.
  • Presley and his band are seen rehearsing for the Las Vegas engagement at MGM Studios in Culver City, California. There are scenes of Presley running through such tunes as "I Just Can't Help Believing", "What'd I Say", "Little Sister", "Words", "That's All Right Mama", and "The Next Step Is Love." Presley and his group are also heard performing a tongue-in-cheek rendition of "Crying Time". The rehearsal sequences were filmed during late July 1970.
  • Later rehearsals show Presley in Las Vegas with his back-up vocalists The Sweet Inspirations, Millie Kirkham and The Imperials, preparing songs such as "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water".
  • There is also a session of rehearsals that takes place in the Showroom Internationale of the International Hotel (now known as the Westgate Hotel and Casino) in Las Vegas. Together, Presley and the entire group run through songs from "Mary In the Morning" to "Polk Salad Annie". These rehearsals took place on August 7, 1970.
  • Footage of an Elvis Appreciation Society convention in Luxembourg was shot on September 5, 1970. Radio Luxembourg DJs Tony Prince and Peter Aldersley are on hand to lead the festivities. A tandem bicycle owned by Presley is raffled off to a lucky fan in the audience. Additionally, various musicians are seen performing their own versions of Presley's songs.

Onstage in Las VegasEdit

The Elvis Summer Festival at the International Hotel began on August 10, 1970, and the MGM film crew was on hand to film this show as well as the evening and midnight performances of August 11, 12 and 13. He sings many well-known songs, including several of those that he had been seen rehearsing earlier in the film. The songs are:

Presley is also seen relaxing in his hotel suite with various members of his entourage. The movie is also intercut with footage of fans offering commentary about what Presley means to them; officials at the International Hotel; and celebrities (including Sammy Davis Jr., Cary Grant, Charo, George Hamilton, Juliet Prowse and Xavier Cugat) arriving for opening night of the show.


  • July 14 rehearsal (M.G.M. Stage 1, Culver City, California)
  • July 15 rehearsal (M.G.M. Stage 1, Culver City, California)
  • July 24 rehearsal (R.C.A. studios, Hollywood, California)
  • July 29 rehearsal (M.G.M. studios, Culver City, California)
  • August 4 rehearsal (Convention Center, International Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada)
  • August 7 stage rehearsal
  • August 10 stage rehearsal
  • August 10 opening night show
  • August 11 dinner show
  • August 11 midnight show
  • August 12 dinner show
  • August 12 midnight show
  • August 13 dinner show
  • September 9 (Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Phoenix)



The concert film reached #22 on the Variety National Box Office Survey on its original theatrical release in 1970. Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune described it as "a carefully managed […] concert designed to promote his future engagements in Nevada." He noted that "fans will be enthralled as Presley sings more than a dozen of his hits" but that "persons hoping to learn about the man after hours will be disappointed."[1]

2001 versionEdit

In 2001, a new version of That's the Way it Is was compiled. The new version eliminated much of the documentary and non-Elvis content of the original in favor of adding additional performances of Elvis rehearsing and in concert. The final film runs 12 minutes shorter than the original, but contains more music, although several performances included in the original film are omitted (most notably the concert performance of "I Just Can't Help Believin'", even though the new version of the film features footage of Presley rehearsing the song and being concerned about remembering its lyrics on stage).

The special edition was released on January 19, 2001, when this new version made its worldwide debut on the cable network, Turner Classic Movies and produced by award-winning producer Rick Schmidlin.

In August 2007 a two-disc DVD "special edition" was released by Warner/Turner that has both the reworked version plus the original cut. The original, however, has only a mono soundtrack [it was made with 4 track stereo]. The DVD also includes approximately 35 minutes of additional performances and other footage that was not included in either edition.

2014 versionEdit

A Two Disc Special Edition Premium Digibook was announced for release in August 12, 2014. With thousands of feet of materials including sequences added to capture with greater intimacy Elvis' performances and his creative process behind-the-scenes, the previously released Special Edition is now being made available as a Blu-ray two disc Special Edition Premium Digibook. Denis Sanders (Shock Treatment) directed this "rockumentary." Academy Award nominated Lucien Ballard (The Wild Bunch) was the cinematographer. Disc 1 (DVD) 2001 Special Edition and Special Features: - Patch It Up: The Restoration of Elvis: That's The Way It Is - 12 Outtakes - song/nonmusical sequences - 1970 Original Theatrical Version Disc 2 (DVD) 1970 Original Theatrical Version and Special Features: - 12 Outtakes - song/nonmusical sequences


  1. ^ Siskel, Gene (May 26, 1971). "Taking Off". Chicago Tribune. Chicago, Illinois: Tribune Media Services. p. 7, s. 2.

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