When the parents of 13-year-old Zoe King tried to get tickets for her and her sister, Wrenna, 11, for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour in Massachusetts last spring, they, like about one in four Swift fans, had bad luck. “They all sold out or about $3,000,” says Zoe. So when Zoe’s father, Pat, saw that the concert was coming to theaters, he reserved Friday night seats at a nearby Cinemark theater in Hadley, Massachusetts, for his family and some of the kids’ friends. “We had been through the agony of trying to buy concert tickets,” says Pat, “so as soon as I got the email about the movie, I bought them.” Zoe dressed for the display in a nod to Swift’s Midnights album in dark blue, and Wrenna painted the numbers 1989 on her cheeks. “Wherever I went, it kept raining glitter,” says Zoe. “I was wearing a scarf. And of course bright red lipstick.”
The King family is part of the audience and helps with the driving Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour to a potential record $100 million opening at the domestic box office this weekend. Moviegoers are a mix of fans who saw the Eras tour live and want to relive it, those who couldn’t go to the show but wanted to, and the people (often parents) who love them. The concert film, which is playing in 3,855 theaters in North America and 4,326 abroad, boasts an A+ CinemaScore from its predominantly female audience and a 100 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.
Some of the first Friday night shows felt more like a concert than a movie. At the 6 p.m. screening at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, fans danced in the aisles, sang along, waved their cell phone lights and wore outfits paying tribute to Swift’s different eras. One fan dressed in tribute to Swift Always album sported a lighted globe, while another wore a vest reminiscent of Swift’s Folklore album.
Cinematographer Daphne Daniels, 24, saw the film after watching the concert live at SoFi Stadium. “We had a good view there, but we couldn’t see the whole choreography,” said Daniels, who attended the Friday evening screening with two friends, also in their 20s and from the entertainment industry. “And we’re only here because of our love for Taylor. We support.”
Rose, 7, and Ruby, 9, who had not seen the concert live, came to the theater with a group of friends and parents and spent most of the 2 hour and 48 minute screening on their feet. “My favorite song was ‘Blank Space,’” says Rose. “I really enjoyed dancing,” says Ruby.
The audience also included more seasoned filmmakers, like M. Douglas Silverstein, a director who has created live concerts for Green Day and Willie Nelson, and even Swift herself, when she performed a Verizon show at a Virginia high school at age 14 . “I was very impressed with the (camera) coverage,” said Silverstein, who brought his teenage niece and her boyfriend to the theater. “The way it was recorded is so intimate. It’s like she’s looking right at you.”
AMC, the mega-theater chain that also distributes the film, has issued some know-before-you-go guidelines to Eras tour moviegoers at the locations, encouraging themed clothing, friendship bracelets and singing and dancing, but asking: “Please don’t dance in our seats or block other guests from watching.” The chain also approved taking selfies, but warned: “You are not allowed to record the concert film on our big screen.” AMC theaters also had merchandise on hand tied to the film, including Swift posters, tote bags and batons, take-home drinking cups and popcorn tins.
Some screenings were more muted and there were open seats at the Friday afternoon shows added late Wednesday. A 2 p.m. screening at the AMC Grove in Los Angeles, one of the eleventh hour screenings, was less than half full (the film was not originally scheduled to launch until Friday at 6 p.m.). While no one danced in the aisles, a woman wearing a fluffy pink cowboy hat moved to the music in her seat. A group of young adult men living sober lives shared the front two rows closest to the screen so they could all sit together.
For some at the Swift screenings, it was the first film they had seen in theaters in a long time. The last time Zoe King saw a movie in theaters was before the pandemic, in 2019 Frozen II. “We enjoyed watching movies at home,” says her father, Pat. “So it was something special for us. It had that feeling of doing something together, shouting, singing and clapping.”
—Madeline Castillo and Pamela McClintock contributed reporting