As we all know by now, it is a Taylor Swift world. USA Today is hiring a full-time Taylor Swift reporter; MTV dedicated a camera operator to her during Tuesday’s VMA Awards, where 865,000 people watched her win nine Moonpeople, the most for a female artist in a single evening; and MTV was rewarded with its highest ratings in three years.

That’s the context for the disruption that is “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” the filmed concert event that debuts October 13 in theaters worldwide. It’s already sent the October release schedule into a tailspin, but the impact goes much deeper.

There’s the strange role played by AMC Theaters Distribution; the unusual rules imposed on the theaters that play the film; the bypassing of studios. Finally, there’s this: Three months after the world celebrated successful simultaneous openings of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” why did everyone demur an opportunity to do that again?

Ellen Burstyn in "The Exorcist: Believer"
Ellen Burstyn in “The Exorcist: Believer”Universal/Blumhouse

“The Exorcist: Believer” (Universal),” which was the only major studio release set for October 13, responded to “Eras” by moving up its date one week to October 6. AMC’s August 31 Swift announcement blindsided Universal; moving a marquee title’s release date six weeks before launch is an expensive decision. (At least “Believer” now has on a holiday weekend; Monday October 9 is Indigenous Peoples/Columbus Day).

“Eras” and “Believer” could have coexisted, but Universal made the smart choice. The issue isn’t audience overlap — some, but not enough to stymie the Blumhouse sequel. The real problem is access to the largest screens, including IMAX and other premium presentations. And there’s no scenario in which Satan defeats Swift for media coverage.

With a packed summer schedule, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” had no alternative to coexistence. Any date meant top-level competition. As it turned out, after a sequel-heavy summer, this date was ideal for both and created the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon to boot.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in "Killers of the Flower Moon"
Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone in “Killers of the Flower Moon”screenshot/Apple

On October 20, Paramount handles the theatrical release of Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” for Apple. The 206-minute film demands premium screens and significant seating, Scorsese will now face the second weekend of Swift. Both films want to claim prime presentation and the higher prices that go with it.

The Swift team filled a void created by the strikes. (She’s a SAG member; the film got a waiver.) If “Eras” grosses $200 million, as some say is possible, does it suggest a new kind of theater programming — or is Swift sui generis?

The need for new revenue streams may be consistent, but there’s few other properties that could match her popularity. Exhibitors bent their norms: Distributors aren’t supposed to dictate ticket prices, and pricing varies widely by region and theater, yet here it’s one size sets all at $19.89, $13.13 for children.

Theaters also accepted the film’s terms around scheduling, with no shows permitted Monday-Wednesday. Studios took note of how exhibitors bowed to Swift’s requirement that loyalty memberships didn’t apply to “Eras.” If Swift can do it, why not Marvel? Similarly, no lower-priced matinees, no bargain Tuesday (not playing then), no senior prices. James Cameron didn’t rate that.

This is the biggest film in the history of AMC Distribution — a label that occasionally handles small one-offs — but it’s unlikely to position the division as a significant player. While it’s the distributor of record, AMC is not doing any heavy lifting in the form of acquisition, marketing, release strategy, publicity, and negotiation. That’s tightly controlled by Team Swift, along with content creation; theater selection and film rental collection were assigned to Variance Films.

AMC and CEO Adam Aron get credit for guaranteeing a quick turnaround into theaters — and significant discredit for blindsiding rival theaters and studios, along with an initial press release that suggested the film was unique to AMC. It may have hoped to benefit their falling stock price; it didn’t work. On August 30, the day before the surprise announcement, it closed at $12.73; as of today’s close September 14, it’s 36 percent lower at at $8.14.

The release of “Eras” comes two weeks after the re-release of “Stop Making Sense,” Jonathan Demme’s 1984 Talking Head’s concert film. And maybe that’s the biggest disruption: Both are concert films, but Demme’s work is regarded as a masterpiece of filmmaking. “Eras” was shot during three shows of Swift’s six-night stand in Los Angeles between August 3-9. Three weeks later, Swift and AMC announced the film’s October 13 release date. Theaters now know that they can sell content as well as movies, and stand to make a lot more money along the way.

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