In October, Taylor Swift made movie history when the filmed version of her Eras tour hit theaters. It had the biggest ever opening weekend for a concert film, raking in $92.8 million in North American ticket sales. Not only did Swift smash box office records, but she did so while bypassing Hollywood studios and working directly with the theater chain AMC.
In an interview for TIME’s 2023 Person of the Year story, Swift explained the movie’s non-traditional path to the big screen—including how she met with studios, but decided against working with them. “Ultimately I did what I tend to do more and more often these days, which is bet on myself,” she said. And that bet paid off—Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is the second-biggest October debut ever, and has made over $250 million at the global box office. Directed by Sam Wrench and produced by Swift herself, the movie was filmed over several shows in Los Angeles, the final stop of the first U.S. leg of her tour, in August 2023.
As first reported by Puck and confirmed to TIME by the pop star, Taylor Swift’s father Scott Swift connected with Adam Aron, the CEO of AMC, to make the deal happen. She credited her father with the idea to pursue the atypical route and circumvent the studios: “My dad just said, ‘Why does there have to be a—for lack of a better word—middleman?” His picking up the phone to make that call was very much in character. “My dad, he will call people. He’s been doing this since I was born,” she explained. “My dad is the friendliest man in the world. He’ll meet someone in an airport lounge in 1972 and still talk to him every week now.” In the story, Swift credits her family with some of her best ideas. “We work together because it’s just a really exciting thing to do as a family,” she says. “I always joke that we’re a small family business.”
The film arrived at a critical time for movie theaters, which were staring down a bleak early fall after the success of Barbie and Oppenheimer this summer. Many studios postponed movie releases due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, which generally prohibited actors from promoting projects for struck companies, and theaters were preparing to feel that loss in ticket sales. But the Eras Tour movie proved to be a lifeline—it broke AMC’s single-day advance ticket sales record by bringing in $26 million within 24 hours of the movie going on sale. It also made going to the movie an event, with fans dressing up and swapping friendship bracelets at their screenings. Because there is no studio involvement, Swift and AMC take home around 57% of the ticket sales, with the rest going to the theaters. (The theaters also get to keep concession sales).
A few weeks after Swift announced Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, Beyoncé revealed that a filmed version of her Renaissance tour would be arriving in December. Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé, which hit theaters on Dec. 1, was also released directly by AMC and without any studio participation. Swift acknowledged the historic nature of both artists’ deals, and how much she appreciates Beyoncé’s approach to the industry. “She’s the most precious gem of a person—warm and open and funny,” Swift says. “And she’s such a great disruptor of music-industry norms. She taught every artist how to flip the table and challenge archaic business practices.”
Soon, Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour will be available to stream at home. Beginning on Dec. 13, Swift’s birthday, the movie can be rented on a variety of streaming platforms. The streaming version will feature some songs cut from the movie, including “Long Live,” “Wildest Dreams,” and “The Archer.”