As the summer season concludes, theaters are pinning their hopes on ‘Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour film to deliver a significant box office surprise in October.
Could Taylor Swift’s recently unveiled concert film follow in the footsteps of the successful Barbenheimer, particularly Barbie, and become a cultural phenomenon at the autumn box office?
Cinema operators are placing their bets on this possibility following the unexpected announcement last week that Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour concert movie will grace screens across the United States and Canada for multiple weekends, starting on October 13. According to several industry insiders interviewed by The Hollywood Reporter, they have high hopes that the film might achieve a groundbreaking $100 million opening, primarily due to strong advance ticket sales. Moreover, they are not dismissing the idea that the movie could eventually surpass $150 million in domestic box office earnings.
This news comes as a relief amidst the ongoing strikes involving writers and actors, causing several high-profile fall movie releases to be postponed. Sony’s Kraven the Hunter, featuring Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the Marvel antihero, shifted its release from October 6 to August of the following year. Warner Bros. and Legendary’s Dune: Part Two, originally set for November 3, is now slated for a March 2024 release, in the hopes that the cast can participate in promotional activities by then (SAG-AFTRA prohibits talent from promoting productions from struck companies).
As of now, the record for the highest-grossing concert film at the domestic box office remains with 2011’s Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, with $73 million in earnings (not adjusted for inflation). It also brought in an additional $26 million internationally, totaling $99 million globally.
In 2009, Michael Jackson’s posthumous documentary/concert film This Is It earned $72.1 million domestically and $181.9 million worldwide. After topping the charts on its opening weekend, Sony extended the film’s theatrical run for an additional three weeks in the United States and one to three weeks in overseas territories.
Disney’s Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour set records when it opened with $31.1 million in North America during Super Bowl weekend in 2008, drawing young girls to theaters. The film ultimately reached $65.8 million domestically and $70.6 million worldwide.
Earlier this year, Trafalgar’s BTS: Yet to Come in Cinemas earned over $53 million globally during a limited theatrical event.
AMC Theatres, the world’s largest exhibitor, made a significant move by securing distribution rights for Taylor Swift’s concert film, a deal that attracted the interest of multiple Hollywood studios, according to insiders. It’s unusual for a major theater chain to handle movie distribution, and AMC has partnered with indie distributor Variance to arrange screenings in competing theaters.
A smaller theater chain owner believes that “everyone will want to screen this film,” though there’s concern that nearby AMC theaters could have an advantage.
AMC set a new record with $26 million in presales for Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour concert film within the first 24 hours. The previous record-holder was 2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home with $16.9 million in first-day ticket sales. AMC has announced plans to offer a minimum of four daily showtimes on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at all their U.S. locations.
Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, which commenced in Arizona in March of this year, generated unprecedented demand for tickets and set world records for attendance and concert tour revenue.
Shortly after Taylor Swift’s announcement of the concert film on social media, Hollywood studios swiftly began adjusting their October release schedules. Universal and Blumhouse were the first to make a move, shifting the release date of The Exorcist: Believer from October 13 to October 6, citing the need to attract a younger female audience. Producer Jason Blum playfully commented on the change on X (formerly Twitter) on August 31, saying, “Look what you made me do. The Exorcist: Believer moves to 10/6/23,” accompanied by the hashtag #TaylorWins.
Then, on September 1, Bleecker Street changed the release date of Meg Ryan’s romantic comedy What Happens Later from October 13 to November 3, teasing the delay with the tweet, “So we’ll take our time … Are you ready for it?” They also noted, “Meg Ryan ends her 14-year rom-com hiatus, and the #Megaissance begins with #WhatHappensLater, now happening … later. Coming only to theaters November 3.”
All cinema operators who have secured bookings for the Eras Tour concert film are experiencing significant interest, not limited to AMC. Wanda Gierhart Fearing, the Chief Marketing and Content Officer of Cinemark commented on the record-breaking advance ticket sales in theaters across the United States, saying, “The exceptional joy of experiencing remarkable content together with friends, family, and fellow fans in an immersive setting is evident in the unprecedented demand we’ve witnessed for Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.” She further mentioned that the film’s magnetic appeal, initially seen during her live tour, has translated into a surge in website and app traffic upon ticket release. Cinemark has made preparations to accommodate Swifties in numerous auditoriums to ensure they can enjoy this shared musical experience.