Taylor Swift added yet another belt to her growing collection of world records. On opening weekend, her concert film “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” became the highest-grossing concert film of all time. According to Deadline, the estimated $93.3 million in domestic ticket sales beat the previous concert film record set by Michael Jackson’s “This Is It” in 2009 at $74.3 million.
The Swiftie phenomenon is so powerful that Taylor Swift’s “Cruel Summer”–which is nearly five years old–surged to the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 list on Oct. 23.
Internationally the film brought in another approximated $32 million, and made No. 1 at the box office in the United Kingdom, Mexico, Australia, Germany and the Philippines as reported by CNN.
The movie had originally been scheduled for release on Friday, October 13th. But after advance sales exceeded over $100 million, the singer-songwriter announced preview screenings in select theaters a day early.
I expected a large crowd. To my surprise, the AMC Empire 25 in Times Square was rather empty. Only die-hard fans had shown up, like Justin and Javier, both in their mid twenties. They already had tickets for the next night, but wanted to be the first ones to see the film, and loved going twice.
At the entrance, staff were handing out free posters. That’s where I noticed Shannon. She wore a yellow/orange silk dress and a green velvet cape. “The Amazon version,” she explained, “of Taylor’s ‘evermore’ era costume.” Together with her teenage daughter Maiya, the 54 years old psychologist from New York went to see “The Eras Tour” concert eight times.
“We traveled the country with Taylor,” she told me. They visited three shows in Tampa, Florida, one in Philadelphia, two in Seattle and one in Los Angeles. Her daughter was absent on Thursday, but in touch via text messages. Luckily, Shannon sat in the row behind me. As the movie roared on the IMAX screen she whispered her expert Swift-knowledge into my ear
See her nail polish?” A close-up of Taylor’s hand grasping the microphone revealed her fingers. “Each color resembles the color of one her albums: Green stands for “Taylor Swift,” gold for “Fearless,” light purple for “Speak Now,”–red of course–for “Red,” black for “Reputation,” pink for “Lover,” the grayish blue for “Folklore,” the mustard yellow for “Evermore,” and the navy blue resembles “Midnights’.”
The movie, like the concert, takes the viewer on a journey through ten eras, ten albums, and ten colors, spanning from Swift’s debut Taylor Swift (2006), to her most recent hit Midnights (2022). Director Sam Wrench, who previously directed concert films for Billie Eilish, Lizzo and Brandi Carlile, combined footage from three live shows, shot at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California, this past August.
The business savvy super-star produced the film herself. And she struck an unprecedented distribution deal with AMC entertainment. Usually movies are distributed by major studios not by singers and movie theater companies. But a change in an antitrust law in 2018, enabled Swift and AMC to act as worldwide distributors. Movie theaters will keep less than half of the ticket proceeds. “Swift and AMC are expected to split the remainder,” the New York Times reported. Beyoncé, who will release her concert film Renaissance, on December 1st, is said to have a similar agreement.
The ticket prices for adults start at $19.89, a reference to Swift’s album 1989 and her birth year. The official release was scheduled for Friday, the 13th, because thirteen is Taylor’s favorite number. (She was born on December 13th, 1989.) The world of Taylor Swift - her videos, concerts, this film - is a feast of references.
The opening sequence greets us with a large clock that most certainly symbolizes the time travel one is about to embark on. Swift’s unreleased song It’s Been a Long Time Coming sets the mood. Purple clouds fill the screen as the camera slowly descends onto the crowds at SoFi Stadium. Dancers enter the stage with gigantic silky fabrics on their heads shaped like seashells. The fairytale journey from heaven to the bottom of the ocean begins.
Shannon knew everything. “Taylor’s legs look so skinny, because she’s wearing Capezio tights with fishnets on top.” She also told me that the little girl Taylor hugs during the performance of her Red album, is Koby Bryant’s daughter. The basketball star was also a Swifty.
Another Swifty had predicted that I would make friends with someone at the screening. I had called thirteen-year-old Cosmo Witzemann in Florida to get some insight before the movie. He filled me in on the friendship bracelets. When people go to Swift concerts, or in this case the concert film, they exchange friendship bracelets with strangers. I didn’t have a bracelet to exchange. But Shannon, who had taken me under her wing, convinced a guy in the elevator to give me one anyway. He wore dozens.
In the lobby I spoke to more fans. Everyone loved the movie, especially the details they couldn’t catch at the live-shows, like the facial expressions of the dancers and the microphones that matched Taylor’s stunning costumes. A favorite was the dramatic one-legged Roberto Cavalli jump-suit she rocks in Reputation.
The next day, on Friday the 13th, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour“opened in 100 countries in over 8,500 movie theaters. Another fan, Alison, who had painted her own nails with the album colors, told me that the singer had publicized her romance with football star Travis Kelce as a deliberate marketing strategy to push ticket sales. Though Alison did believe their love was real.
All these big sales, the shattering records don’t matter when it comes to the music. Songs either move you or not. When I asked Cosmo Witzemann, why he loves Taylor Swift, he said to me, “she makes every day better for me.” That’s more convincing than any world record.
During the movie Taylor’s fans danced, clapped and sang along to the lyrics they knew by heart - like the catchy phrases in “Shake It Off:”
“Players gonna play.../ haters gonna hate.../ Fakers gonna fake...I’m just gonna shake it off, I shake it off...”
Taylor Swift conquers of the world. And what’s better than conquering the world with music?