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One week ago, Taylor Swift’s concert film, The Eras Tour, opened in theaters across the country. Within days, it had become the most successful concert film of all time, grossing more than $90 million in North America on its first weekend. I spoke with my colleague David Sims, who covers culture for The Atlantic, about what the success of the movie says about the future of movie theaters, and what made right now such a good time for Swift to release it.
First, here are three new stories from The Atlantic:
Hard to Repeat
Lora Kelley: There has been a lot of dire news about the future of movie theaters in recent years. Are blockbuster theatrical releases for movies such as Barbie and The Eras Tour a sign that theaters are on the up again?
David Sims: These hit movies are a sign of rebound. There has been a general sense of positivity regarding ticket sales lately, especially after sales reached historic lows early in the pandemic. Barbie and Taylor Swift, in particular, appeal to young people, whom Hollywood is obsessed with getting into the theater.
Audiences are responding to stuff that is a little different from the cinematic universes and franchises that Hollywood has been very reliant on for the past 10 years. Interest is declining in superhero movies and long-running franchises. But rather than that meaning the end of big ticket sales in Hollywood, other movies are filling the gap.
Lora: What can a movie theater offer that streaming cannot?
David: The Eras Tour could easily have been released as a TV series on a streaming service. But Taylor Swift, quite smartly, seemed to realize that the group experience is very crucial to her fandom—We’re all in it together; we all get all the references; we understand the contours of the tour and the eras—and that this would be best experienced in a movie theater. The magic of the theater experience is always going to be that you’re in a dark room with lots of other people who are enjoying it, and you all enjoy it together.
Taylor Swift partnered with the theater chain AMC, which is basically functioning as a distributor. If you distribute through a studio, it takes a large cut of your money. Instead, Swift went to AMC and said, Why don’t you just put this in theaters directly, and I’ll get about 57 percent of ticket sales, which is a good deal. The amount of pure profit you can make with a successful movie remains staggering. Releasing something on streaming or home video, you can make money. But there’s a reason movie-theater releases have been the primary model for 100 years.
Lora: Taylor Swift is obviously extremely famous, and she’s proved skilled at mobilizing her own following. Is her approach to this movie replicable, or is this a one-off phenomenon?
David: Taylor Swift is possibly peerless in terms of universal recognition and cross-generational appeal. In three days, Eras became the most successful concert film ever made. But I don’t think this project is a one-off. There are other celebrities who have great means who can try things like this. The concert film of Beyoncé’s tour, Renaissance, is coming out in theaters on December 1. Her tour is over, so it’s more of a capper. Meanwhile, Taylor Swift has a tour that is still happening—it’s hard to go see it, and it’s expensive, but it’s still going on.
Concert movies do not usually do very well at the box office. But for musicians, there’s basically no downside to it. You are paying very little to film your concert. You put it in theaters, and then you get the money. And people who couldn’t see your concert live get to access it, which is nice.
Also, Hollywood has been on strike for almost six months. A lot of movies have been cleared out, because the striking actors can’t promote them. Taylor Swift’s team came in and basically said, If we put out a movie right now, we will be the biggest story of the month in cinema. The timing part of this may be hard to repeat.
- Jim Jordan lost his third vote for speaker of the House and is no longer the party’s nominee.
- President Joe Biden is requesting $106 billion in emergency funding from Congress primarily to aid Israel and Ukraine, as well as for U.S. border security.
- Kenneth Chesebro became the second former Trump lawyer to plead guilty in the Georgia-election case.
AI Is About to Photoshop Your Memories
By Charlie Warzel
Google’s latest Pixel phones, the ad wants you to know, come standard with a suite of new generative-AI photo-editing tools. With a few taps, you can move people around in the frame like the mom does with her son, or use the “Magic Eraser” to get rid of a pesky photobomber. “Best Take,” a feature that snaps a bunch of images at once and isolates each person’s face, allows you to merge photos so that everyone appears to be perfectly looking at the camera at the same time. Combined, these features mostly reflect the photographer’s intent at the time of capture. But is the end result … real?
Of course, there’s nothing particularly scandalous about editing a family photo. Anyone sufficiently trained in Photoshop has been able to do something similar for decades; likewise, smartphones and photo apps have long offered the ability to touch up a picture until it’s transformed, even “yassified.” Yet tools like Magic Editor will likely soon become standard across devices, making it dramatically easier to perfect our photos—and thus to gently rewrite small details from our lives.
Read the full article.
More From The Atlantic
Listen. The late, great American composer Carla Bley’s 1977 record, Dinner Music.
Watch. Martin Scorsese’s adaptation of David Grann’s best-selling Killers of the Flower Moon (in theaters) explores the rot beneath the myth of American exceptionalism.
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Katherine Hu contributed to this newsletter.
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