He never expected the film to succeed commercially. But the rights to distribute it were acquired by Dan Talbot of New Yorker Films, a canny operator who carefully orchestrated its North American release in 1985. Talbot arranged special screenings for historians, writers, and opinion-formers, including Philip Roth and Elie Wiesel. Shoah arrived from Paris with the blessing of Simone de Beauvoir and hailed by the film-maker Marcel Ophilus as “the greatest documentary ever made, bare none”.
The film ran for 26 weeks in New York and grossed nearly $730, 000. Talbot had six prints made and distributed them to cities with large Jewish populations. Screeenings became communal events. Despite its length and uncompromising format, Shoah became the most profitable documentary ever screened in the US
( and remained so for years ). When it was aired on PBS, it was watched by ten million viewers.
The critical response was overhemingly favourable, too, though the film generated backlash in certai quarters.
David Cesarani: Memory and Forgetting