UPDATE: Taylor Swift announced Wednesday evening that at the last minute Thursday night previews would be held at theaters starting at 6 p.m. Additional showtime are now allowed through 1 a.m. Thursday, then starting at 2 p.m. on Friday per exhibitor sources. Those interested should check ticket sale websites, with all expected to be selling by 10 a.m. Eastern Thursday.

Swift made the announcement herself via social media. It is very unusual, to put it mildly, for a move like this to be made last minute. Having the largest exhibitor distributing the film likely made resistance to such a last minute move easier, as does the potential revenue, but it still is burdensome for many theaters. This could significantly increase the initial gross since most Friday night shows were sold out. How top Swifties who fought to get tickets for the supposed initial Friday show will feel remains an open question.

We get it: “Taylor Swift The Eras Tour,” which opens in theaters October 13, is a Very Big Deal. Even so, hype distorts. Let’s look at this in context compared to a normal release:

What will “Eras” gross?

Unlike most films, “Eras” won’t play Monday-Wednesday anywhere, nor Thursday previews or Friday shows before 6. Ticket prices ($19.89 minimum for adults, $13.13 for kids and seniors) are higher than normal. It’s the kind of event that draws fans on opening weekend, especially those who want crowds to replicate the concert mood. Distributor AMC reports worldwide presales of over $100 million.

Per industry sources, the domestic expectation for opening weekend is around $100 million and perhaps as high as $125 million. All in, domestic will approach $200 million with worldwide $275 million or more.


Will Taylor Swift set box-office records?

It could break the record for the biggest October opening, with the current record held by “Joker” at $96 million unadjusted (around $105 million for 2023). “Eras” should also break all records for single-performer concert films: “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” in 2011 grossed $75 million domestic, $99 million worldwide (adjusted, those figures double). The biggest music film is 1970’s “Woodstock,” which grossed around $350 million adjusted.

If “Eras” opens over $100 million, it will be the sixth 2023 release to do so. Of those only three (“Barbie,” “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse”) surpassed $120 million. So that’s elevated territory, even with higher prices helping.

Seven 2023 films crossed $200 million domestic; five of those made more than $300 million. This could bring the number of $200 million-plus films to eight.

Is this a true theatrical release?

It’s arguable whether “Eras” is a movie or a concert recording. While the public can’t judge “Eras” without seeing it, Variety reported that the title won’t compete for Oscars. Per Academy rules governing documentaries, “works that are essentially unfiltered records of performances” are ineligible.

For customers, “Eras” is like any other movie in the theater (albeit with higher prices and and weekday screenings). Its 168-minute length is above average for a concert film, but it won’t even be the longest release this month. Grosses will be reported like other films; unlike Netflix and other non-studio companies, these won’t be blocked on industry-accessible Comscore. However, there will be no advance screenings for critics, meaning no advance reviews.

Did Taylor Swift really save theaters?

Short term, sure. Before it was announced, October looked disastrous. Last year, “Black Adam” opened to $67 million and led the month to gross $469 million. Pre-“Eras,” “Exorcist: The Believer” (Universal) looked like the top performer and the month wouldn’t get near $400 million. As we now know with the disappointing $26.5 million opening for “Exorcist,” the reality would have been even worse.

“Eras” also scared off a handful of other titles, but they represented much less than the likely $150 million+ that Swift’s film will bring to the month.

Another iconic concert film, “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé,” is set for December 1 but its expectations are not in line with Swift’s. However, this event-style marketing may expand to sports, live shows and other special events beyond the more limited play provided via Fathom and other providers.

AMC Theatres
AMC TheatresGetty Images

Did Taylor Swift save AMC?

No. It may be one of the exhibitor’s most promising outside-the-box efforts to escape its massive debt and a stock price that’s resisted all attempts to goose its growth, but it’s not a miracle.

As a theater chain, AMC reaps the benefit of being the biggest exhibitor and therefore hosting the most “Eras” screenings. AMC is also the “Eras” distributor, but that doesn’t provide the same benefits as a studio. While we don’t know the specifics of AMC’s deal with the Swift team, it’s likely similar to a standard service deal in which producer provides the film, covers marketing costs, and pays a distributor a percentage of the film rental. Reporting puts the revenue split as 57 percent to the Swift team, 43 percent to the theater.

It’s unlikely AMC will go into the business of financing, producing, and marketing movies, something it tried through Open Road Films, in partnership with Regal. They backed away from that years ago.

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