After Taylor Swift, Who Else Could Rock the Box Office Without a Major Studio?

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By Joshephira Honey

Team Taylor Swift and AMC Theatres caught Hollywood by surprise when doing an end run around the major studios and hiring AMC Theatres to distribute a secret movie chronicling her blockbuster Eras Tour. The concert pic opened to an estimated $95 million to $97 million opening over the Oct. 13-15 weekend in North America, even without the marketing muscle of a traditional studio (it came in slightly behind an expected $100 million). In exchange, she’ll get to keep a bigger percentage of ticket sales. Beyoncé quickly followed suit and struck a deal with AMC to release her Renaissance Tour concert pic on Dec. 1. While these stars are global icons and able to secure favorable terms for box office receipts, there are a few others who might have the leverage to run the playbook — if they choose to. The official opening gross for Eras Tour will be released Monday morning. — Pamela McClintock

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BTS

BTS

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The K-pop supergroup has done it before.

WHY IT COULD WORK: The Korean group already has released five documentaries in theaters, and each has been a box office event for the genre. This year, BTS: Yet to Come in Cinemas hit $56 million in global receipts, per distributor Trafalgar Releasing, while 2022’s BTS Permission to Dance on Stage — Seoul: Live Viewing tallied up $32 million in its single-day showing.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: The boy band is in its mandatory military enlistment era and won’t be together until 2025, although it’s safe to assume its legendary fan base will still be there — all seven members have reached the top 10 of Billboard’s Artist 100 chart for their solo projects. — Rebecca Sun 

Drake

Drake

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A hitmaker (but he’s taking a hiatus)

WHY IT COULD WORK: He started off as a thespian, is about to have another album debut at No. 1 with For All the Dogs and his current tour with 21 Savage is grossing more than $4 million a week. On top of that, his DreamCrew entertainment and management company has boosted shows from Euphoria to Top Boy. Everything he touches turns platinum, so why not extend that touch to the silver screen? 

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: The rapper recently announced a hiatus to concentrate on his health. If he steps back from entertainment altogether, it might be a minute before we see Drake at the cineplex.— Nekesa Mumbi Moody

Mel Gibson

Mel Gibson

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He’s got that Passion of the Christ sequel…

WHY IT COULD WORK: Passion remains the biggest indie film of all time, grossing $612.1 million globally via distributor Newmarket. The sequel, Resurrection, would reunite Gibson with Sound of Freedom star Jim Caviezel, whose film bypassed the studio system to become the sleeper hit of the summer thanks in part to a word-of-mouth marketing campaign that included an endorsement from Gibson.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: Yes, the draw is the content (never doubt the Bible’s box office power), but the cultural conservative audience in 2004 could look different than 2023’s as far as the tone and type of projects that may catch fire. — Aaron Couch

Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez

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She has one of the world’s biggest social followings.

WHY IT COULD WORK: The actress-singer-mogul has a global fan base that includes more than 440 million Instagram followers — about 150 million more than Taylor Swift herself. With a hit Hulu series (Only Murders in the Building), a booming cosmetics brand (Rare Beauty) and a new album (SG3) in the works, there’s no shortage of content options for a big-screen story.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: Her 2022 doc My Mind & Me may have had a big Hollywood premiere and a theatrical run followed by an Apple TV+ release, but Murders was renewed for season four and will likely pick up production after the SAG-AFTRA strike ends. — Ashley Cullins

Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi

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A global superstar bringing new life to the MLS.

WHY IT COULD WORK: Shortly after joining Inter Miami in a deal reportedly worth $50 million to $60 million a year, the Argentine footballer changed the game in U.S. soccer both on and off the field. The superstar led the last-place team to a League’s Cup title, causing MLS ticket prices to skyrocket, proving his fans will pay a premium to see him.

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: His megadeal, which includes a future ownership stake in the team, has buy-in from Adidas and Apple TV+, the latter of which owns exclusive rights for MLS games through 2032, and a docuseries Messi Meets America, but no theatrical release for it is planned. Yet. — Ashley Cullins 

MrBeast

MrBeast

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The YouTube star has a flair for turning out fans.

WHY IT COULD WORK: Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast, is the Michael Jordan of YouTube, with 191 million subscribers. His videos have a production quality that rival Hollywood TV shows (he spent $3.5 million to re-create Netflix’s Squid Game for a single video). If he created an event for theaters only, perhaps with some of his cash giveaways as part of the appeal, it could strike gold. 

WHY IT MIGHT NOT: The genres he plays in are more Discovery Channel than Marvel (think explosions and wacky competition videos). Donaldson has upped the ante on his stunts, but does his audience want to pack theaters? — Alex Weprin

Oct. 15, 10:05 a.m.: Updated with weekend opening estimates for Eras Tour.

A version of this story first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe

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