The legend of Taylor Swift and her Midas touch with all and everything continues to grow. Following a remarkable first leg to “The Eras Tour” that Pollstar (conservatively) estimates at a gross of nearly $700 million — laying the foundation to shatter every record — she boldly took over a box office outside of the music arena (or stadium). In a month usually dominated by frights and heroes in tights, the megastar released the concert film “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” that made a killing in movie theaters, grossing more than $150 million ($203 million worldwide) in less than three weeks, making it the most lucrative movie of the spooky season.
Her team managed to do it with a budget reportedly between $10 and $20 million, using footage from her August shows at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California. The movie’s domestic box office haul not only surpassed the domestic gross of summer blockbuster “Fast X” but it also beat out “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” to become the highest-grossing concert movie of all time.
“It gives a second life to the tour,” Michele Bernstein, founder of music marketing consultancy firm Michi B., Inc., tells Pollstar. “She is an artist who has that kind of demand and can feed that demand with another channel, and that is not for every artist at all. In that setting, it’s magic.”
Swift’s feats are impressive for a self-produced 2-hour, 49-minute concert movie — especially from a tour that just concluded in the U.S. and Mexico and is about to start its overseas leg in South America — but the financial gain isn’t the only thing raising people’s eyebrows. She did all of it by sidestepping big streaming networks like Netflix and major Hollywood studios and dealing directly with AMC Theatres to distribute the film.
The astute move even caught the attention of renowned filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who directed this year’s massively successful “Oppenheimer.” He brought up the Swift film during a conversation with author Kai Bird at City University of New York on Oct. 11.
“Taylor Swift is about to show the studios, because her concert film is not being distributed by the studios. It’s being distributed by the theater owner, AMC, and it’s going to make an enormous amount of money. And this is the thing: this is a way of seeing things and sharing stories or sharing experiences that’s incredibly valuable, and if they don’t want it, somebody else will. So that’s the truth of it,” Nolan said during the discussion.
“Anytime a film succeeds that isn’t expected to succeed, it’s an encouraging thing for Hollywood in every which way. It’s an encouraging thing for filmmakers,” he added, referring to his biopic about the “father of the atomic bomb” that has grossed over $324 million domestically.
It’s also encouraging for the live entertainment industry. While concert movies aren’t new — among the best of them is Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz” from 1978 — they certainly can become a trend amid a period when the touring business is booming. Stars such as The Weeknd, Billie Eilish and Bruce Springsteen have released films through streaming platforms, but Swift added a new template to selling such a product. With many artists on the road, ticket availability that can’t meet the demands of fans and a higher cost of living, why not expand the reach of your audience and make money in the process by delivering a more affordable concert experience? Queen Bey is following suit and releasing “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” through her production company Parkwood Entertainment. The movie will also bypass studios and be distributed by AMC Theatres, boosting their own business while giving the artist a large percentage of the profits.
The films can also serve as a promotion tool for the venues highlighted, and this year’s big star is SoFi Stadium, which opened only three years ago. The site has already hosted some of the biggest names in entertainment, including BTS, Bad Bunny and the memorable Super Bowl LVI halftime show that featured Dr. Dre and Eminem, and Swift’s film takes advantage of the spectacle that is SoFi Stadium.
“It was Stan Kroenke’s vision to create a sports and entertainment destination that was inspired by Southern California but made for a global audience,” Christy Castillo Butcher, SVP of programming and booking at SoFi Stadium and Hollywood Park, said in an email. “Being in Los Angeles, we are in the entertainment capital of the world, where there are a lot of creatives and resources that tours can tap into. Our cutting-edge technology, and the modern, sleek design of the stadium are visually appealing backdrops for filmmakers.”
Prior to Swift’s movie, indie entertainment company A24 re-released a 4K restoration of “Stop Making Sense,” a 1984 film by the late Jonathan Demme that captured Talking Heads’ magical performance at Hollywood’s Pantages Theatre, to great success, grossing nearly $5 million since Sept. 22.
It’s remarkable to see that in a time when actors are still on strike, music artists are there to pick up the slack and help a movie industry with fluid release dates because of work stoppages by making their concerts cinematic events. And Beyoncé will likely do the same in December when her film is released.
“It ‘eventizes’ that experience,” said Bernstein. “It does change the dynamic. Before we had pay-per-view, and this is the next level. It evolves that experience into an event with additional merch opportunities.”
It certainly lends to the idea of a renaissance in the entertainment industry, one that is spearheaded by female creatives such as Swift, Beyoncé and Greta Gerwig, whose “Barbie” film became the biggest hit of the summer. The concert film is back, and with big tours coming in 2024, it might be here to stay.