Taylor Swift recently released the Eras Tour Concert Movie to theaters only absolutely crushing box offices nationwide. The Eras movie is easily the highest grossing concert movie of all time and is tracking to be the biggest October opening in theater history (surpassing The Joker in 2019).
This past summer, Taylor Swift embarked on an ambitious tour putting all 17 years of her musical career on tableau for a tour she called Eras which would take her fans through all the different eras of her life and music. She completely sold out stadiums across the entire country. Her tickets had an expensive list price and an even more expensive after-market price making the tour unaffordable or simply impractical for lots of fans.
So the decision to film the concert on it’s final leg at SoFi stadium to a sold out crowd and release that footage to theaters across the country not only was a savvy one for Swift’s bottom line, but also allowed thousands of viewers across the country to see the show who wouldn’t otherwise have been able to. On a much bigger scale, it’s not unlike Hamilton releasing to Disney+. Countless fans were given access to something and get to feel more part of the experience. Plus, a lot of fans who went to the tour live also wanted to see how it would look on film .
Setting aside the financial genius of the decision to release the concert film, how Swift went about it was the sign of a major trend. Swift went around major studios and partnered directly with American theaters like AMC and Cinemark. This move was extremely savvy for several reasons:
- Studio distribution would have created a middle man which would have cut into her bottom line.
- She avoided a political dilemma (perhaps unintentionally – I don’t know when the deal was struck with AMC/Cinemark) considering the creator strike against the studio association
- Hobby stockholders are partial to AMC due to Wall Street corruption which attempted and failed several shorts of the stock. Her loyalty to that particular brand plays well in large swaths
Swift is hardly the first to go straight to the cinemas, conservative films often make this move when major studios fail to agree to distribution. Specials like the Metropolitan Opera have also long held these partnerships. But unlike those others, Swift is a major powerhouse and her choice to make sure she and the theaters kept as much money as they could is a big signal to studios that creators are backing theaters and not looking for Streaming to totally wipe out the big screen.
The movie itself was sensational. It played out as if it was the live concert. Unlike other concert movies, there was no documentary or commentary or anything other than the concert itself. At 2 hours 48 minutes, the major change to the movie was cutting off some of the transition time and removing any duets with other artists. The live show ran about 3.5 hours.
The Swift show was beautiful to behold up close (particularly the Evermore set) The costumes were dazzling and the sets were top class. Swift’s stage presence is truly otherworldly. Many have described her stage charisma as akin to Michael Jackson and some joked that if an alien saw the show they’d think she was our God.
Just like her live tour, Swift played all the favorites and gave special attention to four of her albums that never went on tour thanks in-part to the COVID-19 pandemic; Lover, Folklore, Evermore and Midnights. Each era had its own aesthetic which coincided with how she marketed each album. Midnights, her most recent new music, closed the show and was given the most time. Speak Now, her most recent release (re-recorded), received the least attention (other than her debut album) with only one song.
The production quality of the tour and of the film is unrivaled by any of her contemporaries or frankly any pop kings and queens who have come before her. The path was paved by innovative artists like Cher, Madonna, Britney and Katy Perry but none of these shows have ever come to the scale and scope of a show like the one Taylor puts on and has brought to theaters. There is a reason she is being compared to Michael Jackson. It isn’t to say she’s better, it’s just to show what her level is. “Michael Jackson” is a tier.
Overall, the 2 hours and 48 minutes fly by for both Swifties and casual listeners. The $20 ticket price and $10 commemorative cup is well worth it for a concert experience the caliber in which she is providing.
Beyonce is releasing her concert movie from her Renaissance tour in December in similar fashion to Swift partnering directly with AMC and other theaters. Hopefully, more artists and theaters continue to partner in this way bringing music and culture to audiences in broad swaths.
Say what you want about Taylor Swift, but hearing the clapping and cheers of her fans to her predominately upbeat music it became clear that most of what she puts into the world and unites people around is positive. And who else can say that on the scale in which she can say it?