How the Swiftie Cinematic Universe Came to Theaters

According to sources close to the deal, the priority was to “event-ize” the experience, to replicate a Swift concert environment.
According to sources close to the deal, the priority was to “event-ize” the experience, to replicate a Swift concert environment. Photo: Mat Hayward/Getty Images
Matthew Belloni
September 1, 2023

More than three months ago, my buddy Adam Aron, the C.E.O. of AMC Theatres and former winner of the coveted What I’m Hearing “Villain of the Year” honor, got a call from a friend who also happened to know Scott Swift. Per sources, this mutual friend informed Aron that Mr. Swift, the father of Taylor Swift, had a “crazy idea” and wanted to chat. It seemed the Swifts had been disappointed in their discussions with a couple Hollywood studios about distributing a planned concert film of Taylor’s current tour show. Might Aron be interested in bypassing those studios and putting Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour directly in theaters?      

Uh… A Taylor Swift concert film? Exclusively in cinemas just months after the North American leg of her tour contributed to a likely $1.4 billion total gross when it’s done, according to Pollstar, and at a time when traditional studio movies are being bumped to 2024 amid the SAG-AFTRA strike? And without the traditional studio distributor middleman? AMC and the other chains have done concert stunts in the past, of course, and in 2021, AMC exclusively played a Chance the Rapper movie, but the world’s biggest music star teaming with the world’s biggest theater company on a film that could play for months is as close to a no-brainer as exists in entertainment. And for Aron, it was a gift at a time when his company has been teetering on the brink of bankruptcy. (AMC declined to comment; Team Swift’s publicist, Tree Paine, did not respond.)

Sure, doing a deal with Swift might anger AMC’s Hollywood partners, especially since those studios were also interested in the project. But, Aron likely reasoned, the studios didn’t exactly care about AMC or the other theater chains when they sent movie after movie to their streaming services during Covid, pushing Cineworld and Alamo Drafthouse into Chapter 11 and others to the brink. Or when Universal and the others used Covid as an excuse to shatter traditional theatrical windows and put movies on PVOD services after only a brief window in theaters. They shared a slice of revenue, but no love lost there.