Taylor Swift singing into microphone (l) movie theater audience watching movie eating popcorn (r)

Brian Friedman/Shutterstock Nestor Rizhniak/Shutterstock (Licensed) Remix by Caterina Cox

Swifties are reshaping the concert movie experience

Is the Eras Tour movie a recipe for chaos?

 

Kira Deshler

Fandom

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Will Taylor Swift fans be able to control themselves? This was the question on many minds when Swift announced her Eras Tour film back in August. To some, the concert film seemed like a recipe for pandemonium, as Swifties are a famously passionate bunch

Swift is not the first artist to release a concert film, but she was clear in her instructions about how this film would be different. On Instagram, she wrote “Eras attire, friendship bracelets, singing and dancing encouraged,” indicating that the film would attempt to replicate the tour experience. Swift’s initial prescription generated many questions. Concerned parties wrote theater etiquette guides, and one fan conducted a thorough investigation into what kind of behavior theaters allow

Now that the film is out in theaters, we can put these queries to rest

I attended a mostly full showing of the film on Sunday afternoon at a suburban AMC, just as God (AKA Nicole Kidman) intended. Shortly after the film started, a group of fans ran to the front of the theater to dance and jump up and down, returning to their seats when the slower sets (evermore and folklore) began. Behind me sat two young girls with glowsticks, who stood up to wave them around intermittently during the show’s 2-hour and 45-minute runtime. Others stayed seated for most of the show, save much-needed bathroom breaks. 

Despite concerns about The Eras Tour ruining the theater experience for other moviegoers, that wasn’t the case at my local AMC. Though the movie was almost ear-piercingly loud at times—thanks, Dolby Atmos—and could be heard clearly from the hallway, the sound didn’t travel from one theater to the other. As far as theater etiquette goes, a few people took out their phones to record the action on occasion, but given the bright lights and thundering noise, this wasn’t particularly distracting.

According to online accounts of screenings around the world, the climate of Eras Tour showings varied greatly from theater to theater. Some fans reported fairly subdued audiences—several people singing and dancing, but nothing extreme. Then there are the videos that depict something akin to the hysteria we expected: Swifties crying on the floor and screaming every lyric, huge circles of Swifties spinning at the front of the theater, and an especially loud crowd in Manila

In many ways, your Eras Tour film experience depends on how willing you and your fellow viewers are to be unabashed about your love for Taylor Swift. The film was billed as a safe space for Swifties to fully embody their love for the singer, and moviegoers took this to heart. Fans revamped the theater environment for their own purposes, epitomizing the stated rules of engagement—rules defined in collaboration with their benevolent leader. 

Swift’s relationship with fans is central to her fandom, perhaps more so than any other pop artist. Swifties love her in part because they feel close to her, and this intimacy also generates a sense of kinship among fans. Swift emphasizes this dynamic regularly. Speaking at the film’s premiere, she told fans “you absolutely are main characters in the film.” Though most audiences had to do without Swift’s physical presence, they heeded her message of empowerment, centering their own joy above all else

Why it matters

Swifties are reshaping the concert movie experience in their own image. Not only is this good for Swift, it’s good for theaters, who took a huge hit during the pandemic. (Swift’s deal with AMC has the potential to change things in a big way.)

With Beyoncé’s Renaissance film coming out in December, it appears we are entering a new era of moviegoing, one where music fandom takes center stage. While Ticketmaster continues its tyrannical reign, this concert movie boom means that more fans will get to participate in pop music devotion, as movie theaters become spaces of wild abandon. Are you ready for it?

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