Taylor Swift’s fans know the greatest films of all time were never made, but that could be called into question come October 13, when her Eras Tour concert movie is set for release in North America.
The bigger question might be: Why did Swift decide to release her highly anticipated film in theaters over a streaming service?
Already, the film has reached notable milestones. It has broken records for single-day advance ticket sales revenue with $26 million of tickets sold on August 31, according to AMC Theaters, blowing past previous record-holder “Spider-Man: No Way Home.”
But Swift’s latest film is a pivot from recent years, when she released her concert films and documentaries on streaming services. Experts say that choosing movie theaters for the Eras Tour film’s debut over the small screen is a move fitting of both Swift’s business acumen and relationship with her fans.
Swift’s previous documentaries, “Miss Americana” and “Taylor Swift Reputation Stadium Tour” are on Netflix, while “Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions” is available on Disney+. “Taylor Swift: Journey to Fearless” aired on The Hub, since re-branded as Discovery Family. “The 1989 World Tour Live” was released on Apple Music. Warner Bros. Discovery, CNN’s parent company, also owns the Discovery network.
Unlike her previous concerts, the Eras Tour has become a cultural phenomenon. Many fans dress up in themed outfits to represent each of Swift’s “eras” or inside jokes among fans, donning everything from sparkly dresses to cowboy boots to cat costumes. Some make hundreds of friendship bracelets to trade during shows, and memorize lyrics and fan chants for her roughly three-hour performance.
At a movie theater, Swifties can partake in those rituals with other fans, which wouldn’t be the case for an at-home viewing on the couch. The theater’s ability to recreate the concert experience is likely a key reason why Swift decided to choose the big screen for her film, said Jonathan Kuuskoski, chair of the entrepreneurship and leadership department at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre and Dance.
“The movie basically functions as an overflow room for the concert tour,” said Kuuskoski.
Swift seemed to encourage the theater as a make-shift concert venue, posting on social media: “Eras attire, friendship bracelets, singing and dancing encouraged,” adding “1, 2, 3, LGB!” the acronym to a concert fan chant.
Demand for Swift’s concerts has been astronomical, crashing Ticketmaster’s website last November and prompting US lawmakers to investigate whether the company has a monopoly on ticket sales. Ticketmaster was hit with more glitches in July when fans tried to purchase tickets for her shows in France.
While her concerts are in no short supply of attendees, a theater release opens the door to Swifties who couldn’t afford concert tickets, as well as potential new fans willing to pay for a movie ticket without committing to a concert, said Ralph Jaccodine, an assistant professor at Berklee College of Music and former concert promoter who has worked with Bruce Springsteen, Kiss and others.
Adult tickets for the film are set at $19.89, a nod to Swift’s album “1989,” whose re-recording is set for release two weeks after the “Eras Tour” theatrical debut. Swift’s favorite number is 13, and tickets for children and seniors are aptly set at $13.13.
Releasing the film in theaters is also a more financially lucrative decision than providing it to a streaming service, said Kuuskoski. For example, while moviegoers have to purchase a ticket each time they view a film, that’s not the case for streaming. Swift could also sell the film to a streaming service after it runs its course on the big screen.
Releasing the film in theaters before the tour is over seemingly runs the risk of potentially cannibalizing ticket sales for the actual concert. but the timing actually helps keep the momentum surrounding her tour going, says Jaccodine. Swift’s global tour ends in late 2024.
“I don’t think she could get any less publicity than what’s going on now,” he said.
Others seemed to have their own reasons for concern about the Eras Tour film release’s timing. The “Exorcist: Believer,” originally scheduled to be released on the same day as Swift’s film, moved it up a week.
“Look what you made me do. The Exorcist: Believer moves to 10/6/23 #TaylorWins,” the producer of the upcoming horror film posted on “X,” formerly Twitter, just hours after Swift announced her film.
The summer has already ushered in a film renaissance, as blockbusters “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” raked in a combined $511 million in global box office sales over their opening weekend and rekindled hopes that consumers are returning to movie theaters after the pandemic forced them to shutter their doors. “Barbie” is distributed by Warner Bros. Discovery, which owns CNN.
The Eras Tour’s film will likely extend the strong run of movie ticket sales set by the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon, especially as theaters ramp up their own efforts to lure in moviegoers, said Michael O’Leary, chief executive of the National Association of Theater Owners.
AMC is selling collectible popcorn tubs and fountain drink cups in theaters starting the day of the film’s release, and offering free posters along with ticket purchases while supplies last.
“I don’t think this is something which is going to be a two- or three-week phenomenon,” O’Leary said. “You’re going to have people going multiple times.”