What Taylor Swift's Concert Film $130 Million Debut Means for Indie Film
Sure, Taylor Swift might be the world's biggest pop star, but no one expect her to make this much with an indie, self-distributed concert film.
Whether you were a lucky Swifty who snagged a ticket during the Ticketmaster nightmare or a casual fan who is impressed by a singer's ability to perform a 3 hour and 15-minute long show for six nights in a row in Los Angeles (not including the endless weekends leading up to her final shows in LA), Taylor Swift is becoming a powerhouse in the film world. The best part is that she is doing it on her own accord.
After releasing that not everyone could go to the hottest concert of the year, Swift and her parents had the idea of bringing the concert to a more accessible place: your local AMC theater.
Director Sam Wrench, who directed Lizzo's Lizzo: Live at Concert and three of Billie Eilish's concert films, footed the production bill with Swift to make a $15 million film, financed away from studios.
Was the risks worth it? Let's look at the numbers.
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour Has a Fearless Debut
Variety reports this morning that the Taylor Swift: The Eras Touris towering over the global box office with an estimated of $126 million to $130 million during its first weekend at the box office. This makes Swift's concert film the highest-grossing concert film of all time, passing Justin Beiber's Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, which grossed $73 million at the global box office (according to Box Office Mojo).
These are impressive numbers for several reasons, one being that the film was announced six weeks ago and was marketed mostly on Instagram.
“Taylor Swift’s talent and persona are striking a powerful chord, and the film captures it,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “This is Taylor Swift’s time."
It is clear from the LA debut of the film and the nods to the fans who made the concert possible that this concert film was made from a place of love and care for the fans who care so much about a specific artist's new endeavors in another medium.
However, there was some disappointment from the film's performance in the global market. In a Puck newsletter, one international exhibitor said, “While Taylor’s social channels and NFL press might be enough to drive awareness in the U.S., there is much more work to be done when taking this global. A studio distribution arm would have seen this coming and have used a more strategic approach in booking screens and marketing…”
Marketing matters across the seas, especially for a film that was announced barely two months ago. Swift's plate seems to be full of a global leg of the tour in swing, 1989 (Taylor's Verison) upcoming release, her debut film in development, and several secret projects that Swift is sure to be working on. For her and her team to focus on promoting an indie film they have spent a fraction of her concert earnings on would seem like a waste of time and energy when the fans' word of mouth is already so strong.
Some of the conflict comes from the global "day of jihad" declared by Hamas, which might have scared off some of the walk-up ticket sales in big cities worldwide.
Taylor Swift: Eras TourGetty Images
Initially, Eras Tour was going to play on the big screen in North America, where the pop star wrapped up the first leg of her domestic tour before taking it worldwide. However, the advance ticket sales, which joined the top 10 all-time best first-day pre-seller films of all time with $26 million of tickets sold in a single day, Swift and AMC released the film around the world.
The 2-hour and 45-minute long film, which is a slightly condensed version of the concert, includes two surprise songs, "Our Song" and "You're on Your Own, Kid," the latter song whose lyrics inspired Swifties to make friendship bracelets for the tour.
There is something special about a project that is made with the fans in mind. While the project can feel a little heavy-handed in its fan servicing (it's a concert film so it's hard to imagine it not feeling this way at times), the film is a celebration of the lengthy career of one of the most celebrated pop stars in the world. Fans in the theater are signing along, crying, laughing, and exchanging friendship bracelets with each other as if they were physically attending the live concert.
This is a very similar effect that we saw with the Talking Heads's concert film from A24, Stop Making Sense, which saw audiences getting up and dancing under the screen as the band performed some of their biggest hits.
Is this the golden era of concert films? Or are indie studios getting smarter about what audiences want from big acts?
With all of the chaos in the world and the financial hardships hitting Americans, a $20 ticket to a concert that highlights all of your favorite music is like breathing fresh air for the first time in a long while. There is a blissful disassociation from reality in this concert film. Maybe pure entertainment is what audiences want over heavy dramas that remind us of the world we are living in.
The power of storytelling can't be denied, and Swift, one of the world's most celebrated storytellers, is giving audiences the chance to be swept up in a three-hour-long fairytale of a normal girl turned superstar. It will be exciting to see Swift's future unfold as a filmmaker once she debuts her first feature film.
Let us know what you think about Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in the comments below.