When 13-year-old Zoe King’s parents tried to get tickets for her and her sister, Wrenna, 11, to see Taylor Swift‘s Eras Tour in Massachusetts last spring, they, like roughly one in four Swift fans, were out of luck. “They were all sold out or like $3,000,” says Zoe. So when Zoe’s dad, Pat, saw that the concert was coming to movie theaters, he snapped up Friday night seats at a nearby Cinemark theater in Hadley, Massachusetts, for his family and some of the kids’ friends. “We had gone through that torment 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 screening with a nod to Swift’s Midnights album in dark blue, and Wrenna painted the numbers 1989 on her cheeks. “I kept raining glitter wherever I went,” Zoe says. “I wore a shawl. And of course bright red lipstick.”
The King family is part of the audience helping to drive Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour to a potential record $100 million domestic opening at the box office this weekend. The 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 wished they could, and the people (often parents) who love them. The concert film, which is playing in 3,855 cinemas in North America and 4,326 overseas, boasts an A+ CinemaScore from its mostly female audience and a 100 percent critics’ 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 Theatre in Hollywood, fans danced in the aisles, sang along, waved their cell phone lights and wore outfits in tribute to Swift’s different eras. One fan dressed in homage to Swift’s Evermore album was carrying an illuminated globe, while another wore a cardigan reminiscent of Swift’s Folklore album.
Cinematographer Daphne Daniels, 24, was seeing the film after having watched the concert live at SoFi Stadium. “We had a good view there, but we couldn’t see all the choreography,” says Daniels, who attended the Friday night screening with two friends, also in their 20s and in the entertainment industry. “And we’re just here because of our love for Taylor. We support.”
Rose, 7, and Ruby, 9, who hadn’t seen the concert live, came to the theater with a group of friends and parents and spent most of the 2-hour, 48-minute screening on their feet. “My favorite song was ‘Blank Space,’” says Rose. “I really liked the dancing,” says Ruby.
The audience also contained more seasoned cineastes, like M. Douglas Silverstein, a director who has shot live concerts for Green Day and Willie Nelson, and even Swift herself, when she performed a Verizon show at a Virginia high school when she was just 14. “I was wildly impressed by the [camera] coverage,” says Silverstein, who had brought his teenage niece and her friend to the theater. “The way it’s shot is so intimate. It’s like she’s looking directly at you.”
AMC, the mega-theater chain that is also distributing the movie, issued some “know-before-you-go” guidelines to Eras Tour moviegoers at its locations, encouraging theme attire and friendship bracelets and singing and dancing, but asking, “Please do not dance on our seats or block other guests from viewing.” The chain also endorsed selfie-taking but warned, “You may not record the concert film on our big screen.” AMC theaters also had merchandise tied to the film on hand, including Swift posters, tote bags and batons, take-home drink 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 11th-hour ones, was less than half full (the film wasn’t originally set to launch until 6 p.m. Friday). While no one was dancing in the aisles, one woman in a fuzzy pink cowboy hat moved to the music in her seat. A group of young adult males who are in sober living shared the two front rows closest to the screen so that they could all sit together.
For some at the Swift screenings, it was the first movie they had been to in a theater in a long time. The last time Zoe King saw a movie in a theater was before the pandemic, with 2019’s Frozen II. “We’ve been enjoying watching movies at home,” says her dad, Pat. “So, it was a special thing for us. It had that feeling of doing something together, shouting, singing and clapping.”
— Madeline Castillo and Pamela McClintock contributed reporting