While she wasn’t able to hit the astronomical heights predicted for her concert film, Taylor Swift is still the current hero of the movie business.
The world’s biggest pop star has easily won the weekend box office with her concert film “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” with an estimated three-day gross of $95 million to $97 million in North American theaters.
The PG-13-rated film, with a close to three-hour run time, has given Swifties and non-Swifties, young and old, a reason to return to the movie theaters at a time when theaters need it most. The ongoing actor’s strike prompted studios to postpone six major fall releases like “Dune: Part Two” and Sony’s “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” sequel, a loss that analysts predict could cost the movie business $1.6 billion in worldwide box office receipts.
And the box office in North America is still recovering from its prepandemic heights, down about 18 percent from 2019 numbers.
The Taylor Swift film, which cost around $15 million to make, opened in 3,855 theaters in the United States and Canada. (Ms. Swift added a preview night of screenings on Thursday in 2,700 theaters to accommodate the seemingly insatiable demand for everything Taylor. Those showings grossed $2.8 million.)
Culled from the six nights she performed at the SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles in early August, the film features some 40 songs and covers her past 10 albums. The whole movie takes place onstage with no behind-the-scenes or backstage footage included.
Ms. Swift bypassed the traditional studio system, partnering directly with AMC Theaters to distribute the film, just nine weeks after her domestic concert tour ended. There was little traditional marketing support for the movie. Instead, Ms. Swift communicated directly with her 350 million social media followers. She will begin the international leg of her tour in February, in many of the same places where the movie is playing.
As part of the deal with AMC, Ms. Swift earns 57 percent of ticket revenue, meaning she walked away from the weekend with around $55 million, without figuring in her cut from international sales. With tickets costing $19.89 (in homage to her birth year) for adults and $13.13 (her favorite number) for children ages 2 to 12 and people 60 and older, the film is still a boon for theaters, which are encouraging the celebration with relaxed cellphone policies, specially licensed popcorn tubs, friendship bracelet-making stands and even some custom drinks. A theater in Boise, Idaho, is selling Taylor Swift nonalcoholic beverages, like a maple latte titled the “All Too Well,” in honor of Ms. Swift’s 10-minute ballad.
“Eras Tour” is easily the biggest concert film opening ever. The previous record-holder was the Paramount Pictures’ release in 2011 of “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” which made $41 million over its first three days in North American theaters, adjusted for inflation, and ultimately $101 million in the United States and Canada and $138 million worldwide.
“Michael Jackson’s This Is It,” released by Sony Pictures in 2009, holds the record for total ticket sales. It generated $105 million over its entire North American run, and $380 million worldwide, adjusted for inflation.
Beyoncé made a similar deal with AMC, and her concert film “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” will open on Dec. 1.
Many in the movie industry are now wondering how long Ms. Swift, who confirmed her ubiquitous presence by making a cameo appearance on the season premiere of “Saturday Night Live,” will keep her audience coming to the theaters.
“We’re going to assume the box office will double from here, but there’s no precedent for this; we’re in uncharted territory,” David A. Gross, a film consultant who publishes a newsletter on box office numbers, wrote in his recent analysis.
Adding to its unique nature, the film will only run on Thursdays through Sundays.
Elizabeth Frank, the executive vice president in charge of programming at AMC, said in a statement on Sunday that because of “tremendous recommendations and fans buying tickets to see this concert film several times,” she expected the film would play “to big audiences for weeks to come.”
The next big film to open is Martin Scorsese’s three-hour epic “Killers of a Flower Moon,” which will debut in over 3,000 theaters next weekend. Yet, the western thriller starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Lily Gladstone isn’t likely to see its audience overlap much with “Eras,” which, according to exit polls, skewed 78 percent female. The next likely blockbuster on the docket is Marvel Studios’ “The Marvels” starring Brie Larson. That doesn’t open until Nov. 10.