As she greeted the audience at the premiere of her new movie, Taylor Swift sounded a bit sheepish.
“You’re stuck with me, because I’m going to sit with you and watch this thing,” she told the crowd at the packed premiere of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” held at the sprawling Grove shopping complex on Wednesday night. Well, one of the crowds, anyway: Thirteen of the theaters at the Grove’s AMC multiplex were filled with eager fans, and Swift stopped by all of them to give a special introduction, eventually settling into an auditorium’s audience that included stars like Adam Sandler and Julia Garner.
Regular moviegoers can only hope that an apologetic Swift shows up for more house calls as her concert documentary makes its way into theaters this week. Though it was originally set for release on Friday, Swift just announced that the film will begin screening one day early because of fan demand.
Still, even if they can’t watch “The Eras Tour” alongside the singer herself — who came to the premiere in a pale blue Oscar de la Renta gown and danced in her seat for most of its running time — the movie is poised to deliver in a major way.
For theatrical exhibitors, whose business has been in jeopardy since the actors strike scuttled plans to release tentpole movies like “Dune” this fall, “The Eras Tour” is being likened to the second coming of Barbenheimer: It’s got the grab-your-besties-and-go appeal of “Barbie,” the shock-and-awe soundscape of “Oppenheimer” and the box-office tracking to rival them both. Bullish film analysts expect an opening weekend between $150 to $200 million, meaning “The Eras Tour” has a shot at taking this year’s box-office tiara from “Barbie,” which notched a $162 million debut.
In the meantime, here are four of the takeaways from the premiere.
Expect no extras, though you’ll get a front-row seat
If fans are looking for insight into how Swift put her show together, or what was going on in her life behind the scenes, they won’t find it in “The Eras Tour”: There is no additional embroidering in this concert documentary, which was culled from Swift’s six-night August stint at the SoFi stadium in Inglewood, a suburb of Los Angeles. For those who caught one of the 53 shows Swift played in North American this past year, or for the fans hoping to see Swift in her remaining American dates (an international tour begins in February), this film is more or less the same thing as buying a concert ticket.
There’s one crucial difference, of course: No stadium seat could offer as close a look at Swift’s performance as this documentary, which is vigorously shot and directed by Sam Wrench. And since the 33-year-old singer designed “The Eras Tour” as a journey through the shifting musical genres of her past 10 albums — from the country-pop “Fearless” all the way up to the recent, stripped-down records “Folklore,” “Evermore” and “Midnights” — this film is the closest thing that exists to a definitive document of one of the world’s biggest performers.
In that way, it’s perfect viewing for newcomers and superfans alike: Curious people who were unwilling to shell out for tour prices can now check out Swift at a reduced rate, while Swifties who’ve already attended the concert can relive it in a compelling close-up. My teenage niece, who went to one of the SoFi shows, accompanied me to the premiere and was thrilled by the better look at Swift’s facial expressions and choreography. I noticed that hardly a song goes by without some big smiles from Swift and her backup singers: There’s enough joy on these faces to power entire blocks of Barbie Land.
Only a few songs get snipped
“The Eras Tour” runs a robust two hours and forty-eight minutes, and though that’s nearly as long as “Oppenheimer,” Swift’s real-life concerts during this tour were even more mammoth, typically clocking in just shy of three and a half hours. Do fans have reason to fear there have been major cuts to the set list?
By my count, only a handful of her regular songs go missing on the way to the big screen, including “The Archer,” “Cardigan,” “Wildest Dreams,” and “no body no crime,” which Swift performed at SoFi with the band Haim.
Still, fans will get plenty of bang for their buck, since Swift performs nearly 40 songs during the movie, including a 10-minute version of “All Too Well” and two other bonus tunes, “Our Song” and “You’re On Your Own, Kid,” that Swift plucked from a rotating selection of surprise songs during her tour. And another trim is sure to be appreciated: Swift now moves between the different eras and costume changes in the blink of an eye onscreen, eliding all the time those segues took onstage.
In Hollywood, everyone is a Swiftie
Blockbuster premieres have been hard to come by since the actors strike began, and an eclectic cross-section of celebrities turned out for the “Eras Tour” premiere, including Sandler, Mariska Hargitay and the singers Maren Morris and Hayley Kiyoko. Fashion choices ran the gamut from silver sequins to cowgirl fringe, and Alex Atallah, a co-founder of the NFT marketplace OpenSea, entered the theater lobby sporting the colorful, tie-dyed “I Am Kenough” hoodie seen on Ryan Gosling in “Barbie.”
“I have very few shirts with this many pastel colors,” Atallah told me before posing for a photo with the “Barbie” co-star Simu Liu.
Nearby, I caught Flavor Flav deep in conversation with Swift’s father, Scott. Though they made for an unlikely duo, the 64-year-old rap icon is no fly-by-night fan: He said that he’d seen the “awesome” Swift on two previous tours.
“I’ve been a Swiftie for the longest, bro,” Flav insisted.
But Swift’s biggest invite was reserved for another A-lister (and no, it wasn’t her new beau Travis Kelce, busy with a football game the next day): Before the premiere began, Swift dined and posed for pictures with Beyoncé, who has her own concert movie “Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé” due for release on Dec. 1. Like “The Eras Tour,” Beyoncé’s film bypassed traditional Hollywood studios and will be distributed by AMC Theaters.
Finally, Swift will enjoy some big-screen success
Though she’s a superstar in the music industry, Swift’s forays into film haven’t been as well-received. Her last three movie credits as an actress include the minor young-adult drama “The Giver,” the memorably cataclysmic adaptation of “Cats,” and last year’s David O. Russell-directed “Amsterdam,” which coaxed Swift to pop in for a quick cameo and then promptly ran her over.
Unlike Lady Gaga, who has lately toggled between music and movies in equal measure, Swift has treated Hollywood as more of a side hustle, only committing to the occasional supporting role. But last year, after she signed a deal with Searchlight to write and direct an upcoming original film, eyebrows were raised all over town: Was Swift ready to take her movie career a bit more seriously?
It remains to be seen whether Swift will star in her feature directorial debut, but “The Eras Tour” still supplies her with some much-needed big-screen juice. A fun presence in her biggest numbers, like the bouncy “Shake It Off” and rocking “Look What You Made Me Do,” Swift is even more appealing in acoustic numbers that trade busy choreography for simple guitar playing. And in the centerpiece song “Tolerate It,” she shows acting chops during a well-choreographed routine about a dinner date gone wrong: It begins with her beseeching an inexpressive lover and ends with her swatting a vase of roses off the table.
Her real talent, though, is selling humility with a megawatt charisma that few celebrities can muster. Introducing one song, Swift insists she had to invent an outsized version of herself in order to write it: “In my fantasy, I’m not a lonely millennial woman covered in cat hair,” the singer says, even though she’s spent the whole film looking impossibly glamorous in sky-high Christian Louboutin heels
And yet, you’re still tempted to believe her. What is that, if not a movie star?