Over the weekend, Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour concert film debuted in theaters; the movie is a product of a fascinating distribution deal cemented between the star and AMC Theaters that allowed her to bypass the traditional studio system in order to produce it.
In the midst of the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, during which actors are wrestling for higher wages in the streaming era, this distinction feels particularly relevant: Swift is a performer who so ruthlessly controls every element of her own output that the fan response (which is, predictably, already incredibly enthusiastic) almost feels predetermined.
The Eras Tour concert film grossed between $95 and $97 million at the box office in its opening weekend, according to AMC Entertainment, making it the highest-opening concert film of all time. At a sold-out opening night screening in Manhattan on Friday evening, fans queued up to buy branded buckets of popcorn stamped with Eras Tour designs and exchanged temporary tattoo versions of Swift’s lucky number 13. Compared to one of her actual concerts, there wasn’t the usual sea of glittery, elaborate costumes, but there were plenty of wrists stacked with handmade friendship bracelets (a Swiftie calling card), and even a cowboy hat or two.
Outside the AMC Village 7 theater, Cay, an employee with Sidechat, was promoting the app’s channel for Swift enthusiasts to approaching fans.
“I’ve always loved Taylor Swift, but I only became a huge Swifite when I saw how many other Swifties there were,” Cay told The Daily Beast. “I love women and celebrating girlhood, and it was such a cool experience to be united with so many different people. For me, it’s about community, honestly.”
Indeed, all over the internet, the famously vocal online Swiftie community is jubilantly celebrating the Eras Tour movie: TikToks abound of screaming fans dancing in the aisles, weeping, tossing party detritus around, and generally losing their minds, as is common of any cult-following screening. (In my notes, I called it “Rocky Horror for horse girls.”)
On that Friday night screening in New York, attendees clapped along with Swift, screamed her name throughout the film, and treated it as one giant singalong (though the volume of the movie, thankfully, was never completely drowned out). It wasn’t pandemonium, but the sway that Swift holds over her audience is enormous: It felt wrong not clapping for her, even though she wasn’t physically in the room, and even though the performance had been taped months before.
Even Taylor Lautner, Swift’s ex-boyfriend and the purported subject of the song “Back to December,” wasn’t immune to the enthusiasm and fan frenxy of the Eras Tour film; he was captured doing a literal backflip in a movie theater while the concert film played behind him.
And the movie itself, a faithfully straightforward encapsulation of the three-hour manic episode that is Swift’s Eras Tour, was eloquently described to The Daily Beast by reporter Claire Schaffer during the screening: “No offense to James Cameron, but this is the most expensive-looking movie I’ve ever seen.”
Framed by the gigantic stadiums she’s as comfortable with as your dad would be in his living room, Swift prances across the stage, tearing through her 17-year catalog of hits for three hours in a succession of rainbow-hued outfits, commanding the screen for every second of the Avengers-length runtime.
Swift mania is at an all-time high this year, but she’s never been more famous because she’s never been more interesting, or—as we learned this weekend—more watchable. Conquering the box office is just her latest flex.