Now, the massively popular performer appears to be the savior of the theatrical business as well. Last week, Swift announced that a recording of her concerts, called “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” is headed for theaters, just as fall cinema schedules begin to look shaky due to the ongoing Hollywood strikes preventing actors and writers from promoting upcoming releases (let alone creating new ones).
How Taylor Swift will boost movie ad sales during the Hollywood strikes
The concert film will hit theaters on Oct. 13, likely to continue the “Barbie” trend of converging mass crowds of costumed fans. The film, which was announced last week to the surprise of the industry, reportedly broke AMC Theaters’ pre-sale records by a landslide, making $26 million in the first 24 hours.
The release was also a surprise to cinema ad seller Screenvision Media, which has jumped at the opportunity to create its first custom pre-show for a single title. Screenvision’s typical “Front & Center” program will become “Front & Center (Taylor’s Version)” nationally for each of its cinema partners that have signed on to show the film. (The program name pays homage to the star singer's use of “Taylor's Version” when re-recording several of her earlier albums, an effort meant to regain control of her music.) Christine Martino, chief revenue officer for Screenvision Media Entertainment Network, says the company’s top 30 exhibitors, including three of the top five chains, will all show “The Eras Tour.”
Screenvision has opened inventory for 10 advertisers in its Swift-ified pre-show. Opportunities include branded Taylor Swift trivia, a custom “silence your cell phone” spot, brand ad slots and one slot that will play between the trailers and the film itself, which Screenvision calls its Marquee Position.
Screenvision said its theaters will account for 45% of tickets sold, meaning it will account for eight million of the film’s projected 18 million tickets sold during opening weekend. Screenvision anticipates reaching a total of 19 million moviegoers over the event’s four-week run, although Martino said she anticipates theaters will extend their dates for “The Eras Tour” beyond the current Nov. 5 finish date.
Martino called the concert film “cinema’s Super Bowl,” which could be a much-needed respite from uncertainty caused by the writers’ and actors’ strikes. Martino and Screenvision CEO John Partilla said Swift represents a solution to cinema’s consistency problems that began with the pandemic lockdowns.
“Theatrical exhibitors were starved during the pandemic for the release of content,” said Partilla. “They’ve clearly found ways to open new sources of dialogue with other content partners that could help supplement the mainstay that is the Hollywood theatrical slate.”
Although concert films have long played in cinemas, Partilla said the pre-release performance of “The Eras Tour” may inspire new interest from other musicians, and that other event-based content, such as live sports, may follow as well.
Partilla said that box office numbers are close to reaching pre-pandemic levels, with summer 2023 earning 92% of summer 2019’s domestic box office. “The Eras Tour” is also set to generate quick box office highs because ticket prices are fixed at higher costs than what attendees would pay for the typical movie. Martino said the average adult movie ticket is $10.40, but that those wishing to see Swift’s stage show on the big screen will have to pay at least $19.89.
The arrival of the film comes amid uncertainty surrounding the two strikes. Although numerous films remain slated for the remainder of 2023, many took the delay of “Dune 2” from its original November release to spring 2024 as a sign that major studios aren't confident a resolution will be found with writers and actors in time to promote fall movies. “The Eras Tour” reportedly bypassed Hollywood studios altogether and was made as a direct deal between Swift and AMC Theaters, Puck first reported, with Variance Films handling additional theaters.
For advertisers, Martino said, “The Eras Tour” is an example of cinema’s ability to pivot quickly despite continued disruptions, while similar uncertainty to programming in the TV industry, where linear networks have repeatedly shuffled fall schedules over the past months, has some advertisers nervous about TV’s ability to deliver audiences.
“Having [‘The Eras Tour’] come at this time is like the reality TV of 2008, when the writers’ strike hit and [TV networks] needed to fill it,” said Martino. “[‘The Eras Tour’] is alternative programming and a new way to look at the space, but with the same reach, if not even more epic because there’s not any competition out there during the time due to what’s going on in the landscape.”
Martino said that Screenvision is selling inventory connected to “The Eras Tour” separately from deals that have already closed for this year’s fourth quarter, although advertisers with “premium content already running” have been given first dibs to add the program by the end of this week. Martino noted that she expects the brands that sign on will “likely be new brands coming into the space that haven’t already locked in their fourth quarter with us and really create something that’s truly customized to that with the audience.”
By the end of this week, Martino said, Screenvision’s upfront will be 95% complete. Compared to last year, Martino said Screenvision will close deals for the ’23-’24 broadcast year with a 10% to 15% increase in volume and single-digit increases in pricing.