‘Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour’ will be a blockbuster – and might shake up the movie business

'Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour' will be a blockbuster - and might shake up the movie business

New York: Greg Marcus has been in the movie business for years but he never expected to be urging moviegoers to take out their phones during a film – let alone to be crafting friendship bracelets in preparation for an opening weekend. But there the chief executive and chair of the Marcus Corporation is in a promotion for his theatre chain headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, stringing beads together while humming “Shake It Off”.

Movie theatres are readying for an onslaught like they’ve never seen before, beginning Friday when “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” debuts. The concert film, compiled from several Swift shows at Southern California’s SoFi Stadium, is expected to launch with USD 100 million, or possibly more. Advance ticket sales worldwide have already surpassed USD 100 million.

Swifties will descend. Dancing will be encouraged.

“This is different,” says Marcus. “Take your phone out. Take selfies. Dance, sing, get up, have a good time. We want to create an atmosphere.”

Concert films, of course, aren’t anything new. Just last month, the Talking Heads classic “Stop Making Sense” returned to theatres for a decades-later encore. But “The Eras Tour” heralds something new and potentially game-changing in the movie industry.

Two of the biggest stars on the planet – Swift and Beyonce, in December under a very similar arrangement, – are heading into cinemas in first-of-their-kind deals made directly with AMC Theaters that circumvent Hollywood studios and which, for now, leave streamers waiting on the sidelines. But how did the once declared-for-dead multiplex become the go-to place this fall a pair of stars previously at home on Netflix? When studios began diverting some of their titles to streaming platforms, movie theatres began thinking harder about how they could fill their screens – a question exacerbated this autumn by an actors strike that’s led to the postponement of big releases like “Dune: Part Two”.

Movie theatres are increasingly not just a marquee of movie showtimes but a big-screen stage for a variety of visual media. BTS earlier this year released a concert film, with higher ticket prices and limited showtimes. The Metropolitan Opera has for years done popular live broadcasts in theatres.

Few acts can do what Swift and Beyonce can. Their expected success is unlikely to be replicated. But “The Eras Tour” could be the start of an expansion of what, exactly, a movie theatre can be. Think the Sphere, only much cheaper and in most towns.

“You could say we’re in the movie business, but really we’re in the getting-together-with-other-people business,” says Marcus. “The more we do of it, the more the customers will think about it and the more talent will go: This is something I could do.”

Swift’s camp was motivated to get the film out even as her stadium tour continues internationally. The tour, which is projected by Pollstar to gross some USD 1.4 billion, crashed Ticketmaster’s site, saw sky-high resale mark-ups and left many fans priced out.

The movie, directed by Sam Wrench, would be a way for millions more to experience the Eras Tour. Adult tickets are being sold for USD 19.89,” a reference to her birth year and 2014 album, a re-recording of which is due out October 27. That’s higher than the average movie ticket but several thousand less than many tickets to see Swift live.

It’s arriving uncommonly fast, too, just a little over two months since the SoFi shows. Speed was one reason Swift’s father, Scott Swift, is said to have sought out a direct deal with AMC. Swift produced the film, herself, and, with 274 million followers on Instagram, didn’t need a studio to promote it.

The pop star’s apparent relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce has only further brightened the spotlight on the movie. According to ad tracking firm iSpot, TV ads for the film ran only a few dozen times as of October 6, including several spots during NFL broadcasts. (A Marvel movie, by comparison, might run several thousand TV commercials.)

Ticket sales will be split 43 per cent with theatres and 57 per cent shared by Swift and AMC – with the lion’s share of that going to Swift. The film will play exclusively in theatres for at least 13 weeks – longer than many Hollywood releases do now. AMC CEO Adam Aron has called the deal “a coup for AMC” on social media.

Both AMC and representatives for Swift declined to discuss the film’s release.

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