Taylor Swift Is Coming for Barbie’s Box Office Record With Debut of ‘Eras Tour’ Film

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is poised to shatter records for a concert film this weekend — and has a shot at being the biggest US debut of 2023 — extending a box office resurgence driven by female icons.

(Bloomberg) — Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is poised to shatter records for a concert film this weekend — and has a shot at being the biggest US debut of 2023 — extending a box office resurgence driven by female icons.

The movie, which documents Swift’s still-ongoing Eras tour, is projected to generate as much as $145 million in ticket sales in the US and Canada during its opening weekend, according to Boxoffice Pro. But demand has been strong enough that the release was moved up a day, to Thursday, signaling that the film could outperform expectations. Warner Bros.’ Barbie was the biggest domestic debut so far, opening to $162 million in July.

The Eras Tour is a critical draw for a cinema business still recovering from the pandemic, but also a sign of changing times in Hollywood. Swift negotiated directly with theater chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., bypassing studios, in a once-unthinkable distribution deal. And it shows the power of female filmgoers, who have helped fuel theaters’ comeback this year. The industry long saw young men — lured by superhero movies and sci-fi epics — as its most attractive demographic.

“It is the fem summer,” Sherrese Clarke Soares, founder of HarbourView Equity Partners, said Thursday at the Bloomberg Screentime conference in Los Angeles. “It has been a really great summer to showcase the female economy with respect to music but also with respect to content.”

At its core, the success of The Eras Tour stems from Swift’s passionate fan base, who have flocked to her concerts wearing glitter and friendship bracelets. Scoring actual concert tickets has been elusive for many Swifties — the name embraced by her followers — with seats fetching thousands of dollars in some cases. So the movie is tapping an explosion of pent-up demand.

Sarah Blanks, the mother of three Swift super fans, was lucky enough to take her 12-year-old daughter Abby to the concert tour’s opening night in Glendale, Arizona. At the time, the expense and travel wasn’t feasible for her younger children, 8-year-old Zach and 5-year-old Ellie. The movie means they can sit as a family to enjoy the show up close. 

“They are obsessed,” Blanks said. “Ellie ran around the house screaming and crying about how she was going to see the Taylor Swift movie.” 

Abby has since made 147 friendship bracelets, and Zach created an Eras Tour countdown ahead of the family outing.

That kind of enthusiasm will spill into theaters this weekend, helping the film sail past previous concert documentaries. The category’s current box office record is held by Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, a 2011 movie distributed by Paramount Pictures. It rang up $73 million in domestic sales, according to Box Office Mojo, with $29.5 million coming on opening weekend. Sony Pictures also scored a hit with Michael Jackson’s This Is It in 2009.

With The Eras Tour, Swift opted to bypass Hollywood studios, potentially making the film even more lucrative. By securing distribution directly with AMC, she avoided having to pay a distribution fee to studios, which is typically about 10% of ticket sales. 

The deal with AMC also allowed Swift to set minimum pretax ticket prices at $19.89 for adults and $13.13 for children — nods to Swift’s birth year and fifth album, 1989, as well as her favorite number, 13.

For AMC, the agreement meant it was the first chain to starting selling tickets to the movie, though other exhibitors got access to the film through subdistributor Variance Films. Swift and AMC are expected to take 57% of box office sales, according to the Puck website, while theaters keep the remaining amount — along with money from concessions. AMC declined to comment on the terms of its agreement with Swift.

After Swift announced the movie in August, AMC broke the company’s single-day record for ticket sales in less than 24 hours. Beyond the US, the film is debuting in more than 100 countries through various distributors. As of Friday, 100% of The Eras Tour reviews tracked by Rotten Tomatoes were positive. 

The movie comes on the heels of another groundbreaking success, Barbie. The Greta Gerwig feature — inspired by the Mattel Inc. doll — was not only the highest-grossing film ever directed by a woman, it generated more revenue than any film in Warner Bros.’ 100-year history.

When The Eras Tour premiered Wednesday at the Grove shopping center in Los Angeles, the mall shut down for the day to handle the event. Swift, who walked the red carpet and took photos with fans, announced that showings of the movie would shift to Thursday to keep up with “unprecedented demand.” The sheer number of showtimes should make it easier for fans to get tickets. As of Thursday, only about a quarter of screenings in the US and Canada were sold out, according to data tracker EntTelligence.

To capitalize on the moment, AMC theaters is featuring Eras Tour-themed popcorn buckets, posters and cups for moviegoers. According to guidelines released by the movie chain, costumes, dancing and friendship bracelets are encouraged. 

That attitude is a relief to fans like Bella Diecidue. “I’m really grateful that she’s encouraging fans to really treat it like a concert and not just a movie experience,” the Virginia resident said. She plans to wear a sparkly dress inspired by Swift’s Reputation album on opening night.

Friendship bracelets have become a hallmark of Swiftie fashion. Sales of kits to make the accessory skyrocketed during the US leg of Swift’s tour as fans paid tribute to one of her lyrics: “Make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it.” Arts-and-crafts supplier Michaels Store Inc. saw a surge in sales of beads and jewelry in cities where Swift was due to perform.

Swift’s broader impact on the economy is much greater. Spending by fans of Swift and fellow superstar Beyoncé have added $5.4 billion to the US gross domestic product in the third quarter, according to Bloomberg Economics. The typical Swiftie spends $1,500 to attend a performance, including costs for tickets, hotels, flights and food. Beyoncé attended the premiere of Swift’s movie Wednesday night, and her Renaissance concert movie — with a similar AMC deal — hits theaters in December.

Social media has helped fuel the frenzy, said Los Angeles mom Cindy Anonuevo. Her 11-year-old daughter and three friends have been preparing for the movie by buying matching heart-shaped sunglasses and T-shirts — and they’re already outfitted with friendship bracelets to trade with other attendees.

“They won’t mind that it’s just a movie,” she said. “The feeling is there.”

(Updates with Rotten Tomatoes score in 13th paragraph. A previous version of the story was corrected to show the final weekend total for “Barbie.”)

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

©2023 Bloomberg L.P.