Taylor Swift disrupted the film business with her “The Eras Tour” concert event by not only showing in theaters, but also skipping the studio distributors. She will likely turn October from a weak month into one that could exceed 2022.

With distribution overseen by AMC Theaters, the concert film is positioned to break the all-time October opening weekend record currently held by “Joker” at $96 million (over $105 million adjusted).

Although Swift’s announcement of the title’s release (TBD if it qualifies as a movie or as a straight concert recording) inspired multiple release-date changes, it’s unlikely that it hurt grosses for the month. October looked grim: Only three other films released this month — “The Exorcist: Believer” (Universal), out this Friday; “Killers of the Flower Moon” (Paramount) on October 20; and “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (Universal) on October 27 — are expected to exceed $10 million opening weekends.

None of the changes affected any film that would have reached that minimal level. The amount of gross they would have added to the month would, based on earlier industry projections, have been substantially under $50 million.

Post-Swift, the “Exorcist” reboot moved up a week to gain a Monday holiday for its first weekend. It retained a date with little competition and strong access to premium screens. Tracking projects an opening of $30 million or more, but weak advance reviews might slow it thereafter.

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

“The Eras Tour” should gross at least $150 million during the month. After opening weekend, it will have two additional four-day periods (it is showing Thursday-Sunday only) in October. It remains to be seen whether it will be front-loaded (don’t bet against the Swifties and their desire for repeated viewings). However, it will surely benefit from a set adult ticket price of $19.89, higher than the national average.

October 2022 saw a total gross of $469 million led by “Black Adam,” “Smile” (which opened on September 30), and “Halloween Ends,” the only films to gross more than $35 million in the month. The DC Comics title led with $113 million in 11 October days.

In addition to “Eras,” at least three other films should gross over $50 million during the month. Expect “PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie” (Paramount) to add to its $23 million opening weekend with no other kids’ films in competition. “Exorcist” has, at the high end, a shot at $75 million.

"Killers of the Flower Moon"
“Killers of the Flower Moon” Courtesy of Apple

Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” begins its wide theatrical lead-in ahead of Apple streaming, with access to many premium screens, a week after the Swift debut. It should be in position to get enough multiple screens in key locations to make up for its 206-minute length.

Scorsese’s 2019 “The Irishman” was the same length but major chains boycotted the film because it would play on Netflix four weeks later. It grossed perhaps $8 million in the U.S./Canada, playing around 500 theaters (but only 200 before it streamed). This time, Paramount is the distributor and it will have a wide release from the start with no boycotts. It opens October 20, with its contribution to the month’s grosses perhaps in the $25 million-$35 million range.

Blumhouse’s “Five Nights at Freddy’s” (Universal) opens for Halloween weekend, limiting its impact on the month. It should be positioned to have a $20 million+ start, which would make it the month’s fourth-biggest opening.

When you throw in September holdovers (perhaps $75 million) and contributions from other new films ($50 million?), $500 million is possible as the month’s total. If that happens, the year-to-date increase would dip slightly to 24 percent. That would still keep 2023 on a pace to hit over $9 billion.

Based on our estimate of $175 million, Swift would account for 35 percent of the month’s gross. That’s not a record share: In April 2019, “Avengers: Endgame” did 40 percent of that month’s business in six days. Of course, that was a top sequel in a huge franchise and rival studios stayed out of the way. A concert film that’s not playing full weeks at higher than normal prices without studio distribution? That’s something else.

These days, the NFL welcomes her interest and support, but they are fine without it. For the moment, theaters don’t have the same flexibility.

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