There’s a long history of high-profile concert films and tour documentaries — one that encompasses everything from The Band in The Last Waltz and Aretha Franklin in Amazing Grace to Radiohead in Meeting People Is Easy and the Mountain Goats in The Life of the World to Come. Even for wildly popular artists, concert films aren’t necessarily a huge box office draw — but, as with many other things, Taylor Swift seems to have upended the conventional wisdom.
As Pamela McClintock wrote for The Hollywood Reporter, the concert film Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour “opened to an estimated $95 million to $97 million from 3,850 theaters,” with a concrete number to be announced on Monday. Overseas box office is said to add another $31 to $33 million to that figure.
The film’s domestic opening would put it at the sixth-highest spot for opening weekend grosses this year to date. As the Los Angeles Times reported, the film also set a new record for the highest opening weekend for a concert film — and by a substantial margin, at that. The previous record holder was 2008’s Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert, which took in $31 million its opening weekend.
Writing in The New York Times, Wesley Morris observed that the film, at its best, provided insightful moments into Swift’s music — noting the film’s version of “All Too Well” in particular.
“Rapt in a movie theater, I felt the song’s heart-wrung pique in a new way. Some of that comes from watching Swift’s face register the ache, tsking recrimination,” Morris wrote. “The rest comes from the song pooling outward into anthem territory. Live, it’s like watching someone woodwork ‘American Pie’ until it resembles ‘Purple Rain.’”
Do You, a Man, Understand Taylor Swift?It might be time for you to start understanding; she’s not going away any time soon
It’s arguable that we’re living through a kind of golden age for concert films. The Questlove-directed Summer of Soul won a Best Documentary Feature Academy Award last year, while the restored version of the Jonathan Demme-directed Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense has also drawn substantial audiences with its theatrical re-release.
This momentum seems likely to continue, with the Beyoncé concert film Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé set to open in theaters on December 1. And it prompts the question: who might be the next iconic musician to turn your local multiplex into an outpost of their live show?
This article was featured in the InsideHook newsletter. Sign up now.