By Bob Garver
(An IMDB poster)
Taylor Swift is the single most powerful force in pop culture at the moment. Every other musical artist is eating her dust on the charts. Television, upended by writers’ and actors’ strikes, is only doing well with sporting events where the topic of conversation is Taylor and her possible relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce. On the big screen, audiences’ summer fling with Barbenheimer has cooled off with no heir apparent… except for Taylor, of course.
Her concert movie “The Eras Tour” doesn’t play by conventional rules. It doesn’t have the backing of a major studio. As of this writing, it is scheduled to run for only four weeks. It only plays on Thursdays through Sundays. It was officially announced only six weeks before its release, sending all competition running (“The Exorcist: Believer” forfeited a Friday the 13th opening to get out of its way). And it is still the theatrical event of the season.
As far as box office records for concert movies, forget it, this one already blows everything else out of the water. Domestically, its opening weekend take of nearly $100 million already makes it the #1 of all time, beating previous record-holder “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” by over $20 million. Worldwide, it merely has to roughly double its haul to take the crown away from “Michael Jackson: This Is It,” though some will say that the posthumous documentary doesn’t count as a “concert film.” My guess is that by this time next week, it isn’t going to matter.
I saw the movie on a Thursday night, at a screening that was added just a day before. Because of the short notice, the large theater was uncrowded, with less than ten people in attendance. This could have made the film less enjoyable since large crowds of passionate fans make for a wave of enthusiasm. But Taylor was thinking ahead and brought her own crowd. Okay, that’s not exactly true, but the in-movie crowd of screaming fans at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, CA more than adequately compensated for the lack of fans in the theater. By the way, that crowd deserves credit for keeping its energy up for the entire show. Cheering as loud as they do would have shredded my voice after about five minutes.
From a technical standpoint, the movie does everything pretty much perfectly. Every image is crisp, and every note is clear. Taylor usually takes up the whole frame, so even in smaller theaters, her presence is towering. On something like an IMAX, I’m sure she really is the monster she appears to be in the “Anti-Hero” music video. For better or worse, Taylor is in your face for nearly three hours. And the movie is loud. I imagine theaters were specifically instructed to crank up the volume at least a few notches. The night after my screening, I went back to the theater for another movie, and I must have walked past six houses that were blasting music from this movie. It was a weird experience, to hear that much Taylor Swift music in such short order.
Did I enjoy the movie? I’m a casual Taylor Swift fan and I enjoyed the movie on a casual level. It made for a heck of a party (even without a big crowd), and I cheered for my favorite hits (especially the third verse of “Anti-Hero”). But I also thought that it went on too long, and I’m in no hurry to spend that kind of time on it again. If you’re decidedly not a Taylor Swift fan and you got dragged to this movie by a partner, family member, or friend, you’re probably in for a long three hours. For the Swifties, enjoy your Taylor Swift concert, it’s everything you could possibly want.
“Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” is rated PG-13 for some strong language and suggestive material. Its running time is 168 minutes. Reminder: the film only plays Thursdays through Sundays and is currently only scheduled for a limited engagement of three more weekends.
Contact Bob Garver at firstname.lastname@example.org