Taylor Swift and the ghosts of concert movies past
Swift joins the company of Justin Bieber, Michael Jackson, and David Bowie with a film on her recent record-breaking The Eras Tour.

Taylor Swift is coming to a city near you. 

Of course, if you’ve been online at all in the last year, you understand that procuring coveted tickets to shows of her wildly successful The Eras Tour is a feat in and of itself. Ticketmaster queues, presale codes that never come, buyers reselling tickets for tens of thousands of dollars: these are the woes of a Taylor Swift fan.

In her benevolence, to assure that every fan, faux, and Swiftie-curious have a chance to see the magic of the tour without taking out a second mortgage, Swift is set to release a concert film of the event, aptly titled Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour in theatres on Friday, October 13, 2023.

As Forbes reports, according to AMC Theaters, the film earned US$26 million in the first three hours of ticket presales, with only a reported US$10-20 million budget. The Eras Tour is not Swift’s first or second foray into concert movies—it’s her eighth. Unlike her past films, which were exclusively released on streaming platforms, The Eras Tour’s upcoming theatre run has already disrupted the box office. Universal Pictures and Blumhouse Productions bumped up the release of The Exorcist by a week to avoid competition with Swift, and several other films have followed suit by rescheduling their original October 13 release date. 

Swift follows a long line of artists further capitalizing on already profitable tours with concert movies: Justin Bieber, David Bowie, and Michael Jackson among them. Grab your popcorn and read through a time capsule of their record-breaking concert movies, past and present. 

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never

In 2011, the world bravely fought a different kind of epidemic: Bieber fever. Currently one of the highest-grossing concert films of all time, Justin Bieber: Never Say Never hit theatres globally in dazzling 3-D and earned nearly US$100 million. Never Say Never premiered February 11, 2011, days before Bieber’s first Grammy appearance, after a slew of late-night talk show visits and Glee covers. The film rode Bieber’s first of many career highs, endearing him as a small-town boy whose dreams came true. 

More documentary than concert footage, Never Say Never showcased then 17-year-old Bieber as a born-to-be superstar, hailing from humble beginnings in Stratford, Ontario, as the first son of a single mother. The movie followed a predictable formula, perfected in Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience, debuting two years prior on February 29, 2009. Film reviews from the time describe the thrushes of teenage girls grabbing at 3-D renderings of Bieber on stage and their parents/guardians reluctantly bopping along to his saccharine hits. With guest appearances from Miley Cyrus, Usher, Ludacris, and Jaden Smith, Never Say Never rivals Marvel movies with its star-studded cast. 

Michael Jackson: Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour

Released on DVD in 2005, Michael Jackson: Live in Bucharest: The Dangerous Tour originally aired on HBO as a special in 1992, the same year the concert took place. The show, performed to an audience of 90,000 people, marked the first time Jackson allowed his concert to be recorded. Variety says HBO saw the film as their highest-rated special at the time. 

Different versions cut in alternate performances from other dates along the tour, but, remarkably, the two-hour special is exclusively concert footage, that is, no behind-the-scenes documentary aspect. Following HBO’s release of the controversial documentary Leaving Neverland, which accuses Jackson of sexual abuse, the Jackson estate released Live in Bucharest on YouTube, where you can still catch it for free. 

Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars

Released in 1983, Ziggy Stardust and The Spiders from Mars depicts David Bowie’s last ever performance assuming his Ziggy Stardust persona, recorded live in London 10 years earlier on July 3, 1973. In July 2023, 50 years after its original release, the film was re-released in theatres globally to mark the anniversary of Ziggy Stardust’s last appearance. 

According to a review from The Guardian, the tour promoted several Bowie albums released under the Ziggy Stardust persona, an era spanning only two years. Fans learned the character’s origin story in the titular song, which describes an alien guitarist coming to Earth with his alien bandmates (The Spiders), eventually consumed by his own ego. The film juxtaposes the persona of Ziggy Stardust in concert, with the performer, Bowie, backstage. 

The film’s lengthy post-production process saw many cuts, including three additional songs performed with special guest Jeff Beck, dropped from the final cut. 

Concert films aren’t uncommon. Many musicians film several sets, piece them together, and release the tape on streaming services, but a box office run is another thing entirely. For Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, tickets are available for $19.89, the year of the singer’s birth, or $13.13 for kids, her lucky number. With a running time of 2 hours and 45 minutes, it’s unclear whether the film will take a documentary-style approach or simply feature her setlist in its entirety.

Staff Writer (Volume 50) — Meighan is a published author and Strategic Communications professional. She recently completed her bachelor's in Professional Writing and Communications & French Studies at UTM. Her short fiction, "Birthday Cake," appears in ICCIT's Vision Journal. Meighan specializes in Arts & Entertainment and News writing, with a particular interest in Food & Travel Writing. In her spare time, she can be found dining at Toronto's newest restaurants and planning European adventures.


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