Is Taylor Swift saving the movie theater business?

It’s opening weekend for Taylor Swift’s concert film, the Eras Tour. It’s expected to bring in over $100 million of domestic box office sales this weekend. Theater owners feel this could be what they need to make it through the year. 

It’s no secret the business of movie theaters has been struggling since the pandemic, with companies like Regal Cinemas going bankrupt during the pandemic, but people all over the country want to see Taylor Swift on the big screen. 

Entertainment and film experts are expecting this to be the biggest concert film in history, poised to beat out Michael Jackson’s This Is It.

"The concert in Santa Clara was fabulous," said Erika Odell, who came to Orinda Theatre for the film with her daughter Lena. 

AMC is distributing the film. They announced Swift’s movie broke the company record for most presale tickets sold in one single day.

Cinemark said domestic pre-sales for the concert film are already 10 times higher than any other movie event for the company. 

"There’s something about the energy of experiencing it with other people who are equally excited to be there that makes it extra special," said Lena Odell.

Beyoncé is also set to release a concert film for Renaissance in December. 

Smaller theater owners said the music stars are proving going to the theaters is still a worthwhile pastime.

"Just having people come to the theaters in droves, especially the younger audience that has been slower to come back to the movies, is great," Orinda Theatre owner and operator Derek Zemrak said.

Zemrak said theaters typically make 25 to 35% of their yearly revenue in the last quarter of the year through holiday movie releases, something that theaters won’t have with the ongoing actors strikes in Hollywood.

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"Barbie and Oppenheimer gave theaters a big push and then all of a sudden the strike came on and now studios are shifting movies that were supposed to be released this summer, late summer and the fall, they’re moving them to 2024," said Zemrak.

For this weekend alone, Zemrak said he’s sold more than 200 pre-sale tickets, significantly more than usual.

"Her concert will probably bring about 500 to 600 people to the Orinda Theatre that normally wouldn’t come to the theater," he said.

Theaters are prepared and expecting fans to dance and sing along, tossing movie etiquette out the window.

Zemrak said this boost will help them get through the year, but if the actors strike continues, business could come to a lull again in a few months. 

He’s hoping alternative programming, like live performances and film festivals, will keep the local theater afloat.