Taylor Swift takes on Hollywood
NEW YORK - She already rules music, so now it's on to Tinseltown: Taylor Swift's concert documentary is poised to dominate the fall movie season, challenging the hegemony of film studios and consecrating her business empire.
Swift is taking a break from her wildly popular tour that began in March -- performances will resume in November and run late into next year.
But in the meantime, the 33-year-old is hitting the silver screen: "Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour" is slated for release on October 13, and has already broken the record for pre-sales in the United States in one day, with $37 million in revenue.
The film could exceed $100 million in its opening weekend, said Jeff Bock, an analyst for box office tracker Exhibitor Relations.
"I think we could be talking about the biggest film of the fall season, which is pretty incredible," he told AFP -- even if, for now, only screenings in the United States are on the books.
Swift opted for an unconventional release, announcing it less than two months before its premiere and directly working with the theater giant AMC, while bypassing the traditional film studios.
And in a sign that Hollywood -- which is embroiled in prolonged twin strikes by actors and writers -- fears Swift's release, studios have postponed the opening screenings of several films that fall around the same dates, notably that of "The Exorcist: Believer."
According to the specialist news outlet Puck, the budget of Swift's film fell between $10-20 million.
She will share 57 percent of ticket sales with AMC, says Billboard, a similar proportion to what studios would normally receive. The remainder would go to theaters, under the deal.
"I don't know an artist today with that kind of leverage," said Ralph Jaccodine, a professor at the Berklee College of Music.
The Eras Tour currently boasts 146 dates, and some analysts anticipate it will cross the symbolic $1 billion mark, a feat never yet achieved.
According to the industry tracker Pollstar, each concert generates some $13 million in revenue, which would put the total proceeds at $1.9 billion.
- 'Bold' -
Before her tour and film, Swift garnered significant attention -- and found resounding success -- by re-recording her first six albums in a bid to control their master rights.
The power move came in the wake of public sparring with industry mogul Scooter Braun, her one-time manager whose company had purchased her previous label and thereby gained a majority stake in her early work.
He later sold Swift's master rights to a private equity company.
The situation left Swift publicly incensed: "I just feel that artists should own their work," she said in 2019.
"She's a vocal advocate for artists' rights," Jaccodine said. "She's built her own brand."
Swift is currently worth an estimated $740 million, according to Forbes, but steps closer every day to becoming the first singer worth a billion based on her music alone.
Before her public efforts to regain control of her work, Prince, George Michael, Jay-Z and Kanye West all also fought for control of their masters -- one-of-a-kind source material that dictate how songs are reproduced and sold -- but none had gone so far as to re-record them completely.
"She has been very bold in terms of the strategies that she's been willing to pursue," said Carolyn Mary Sloane, a labor economist at the University of Chicago. "She's been willing to pursue all of these different avenues, a very kind of savvy and smart and strategic economics."
"So you might see some change from other artists."
Pop sensation Olivia Rodrigo, for example, has said she ensured control of her master rights when inking her first contract, inspired by Swift.
Swift has sweetened her re-releases with bonus material and previously unreleased tracks -- like the 10-minute version of "All Too Well" -- to the delight of her ardent fans.
Making an event of each re-release also allowed her to promote her early work to younger fans, who were perhaps less versed in her "Taylor Swift" and "Fearless" periods.
In a similar vein, her "Eras" film will grant "people an entry into her concert" even if they couldn't afford or make it to the live show, Jaccodine said.
Other artists have released concert or tour films in theaters; "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" from 2011 has performed the best at the North American box office thus far, with $73 million in revenue.
But, according to Bock, the industry has never seen "a film like this drop at the height of an artist's popularity, like we're going to see in October with Swift."
"It sets a precedent," he said. "And I think it is something that other artists may consider now."
Bock however added: "There's maybe a handful of artists that could probably pull this off." - AFP