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Taylor Swift’s The Eras Tour: A One-Off Phenomenon or a New Era for Cinema?

Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour is the ultimate tribute to her fans. Whether her twin pandemic-releases folklore and evermore recently converted them, or have been die-hards since the debut days, Taylor’s whirlwind concert is an ode to the Swifties of our time. Is the commercial success of her film a result of an ongoing trend in cinema, or is Taylor setting a new precedent for pop stars?

Picture this: it’s a Friday, the 13th of October (and by chance my 22nd birthday! (“Who’s Taylor Swift anyway?”)) and the official opening night of The Eras Tour. Across the globe, fans are dressed head to toe in Taylor-inspired costumes, arms swaddled in friendship bracelets (an essential for trading and a reference to fan-favourite You’re On Yourtheir Own, Kid). Running late, my family and I rush through the lobby, grabbing the limited-edition popcorn bucket and cup en route. I swiftly (pun intended) pose at the shimmering backdrop, which is adorned with silver streams and multi-coloured bunting (each colour representing a different album), before the ushers enthusiastically wave me in. Despite my earlier panic over securing tickets, the cinema is sparsely populated. It is a later screening, starting at 10pm and finishing at 1 in the morning, so I am not entirely surprised. The late-night viewers that remain consist of a few couples (one partner more invested than the other) and a gang of younger women. This is preferable to me (each ticket costs nearly twenty quid, so I am not missing a moment of screen time). And to be fair, this is the fourth showing of the night, in one of innumerable cinemas across the UK.

The film itself is a three-hour feat, spanning seventeen years of music, and maps out each of her ten ‘eras’ via her albums. From the infamous ‘22’ top hat to her Reputation snake-leg bodysuit, Swift completely immerses herself and her audience in each stage of her career.

When Swift delves into Evermore, she emerges in a gothic cloak and whimsical orange gown. As fir trees ascend from beneath the stage, dancers illuminate the darkened floor with glowing lamps and form ritualistic circles

Beginning with Lover, Swift dons a shimmering bodysuit and matching blazer, against a backdrop of lavender hues. In Reputation, Swift performs ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ as spotlights ricochet across the stadium and snakes coil along the stage. She weaves between glass boxes containing her past personas, playfully sticking her tongue out and teasing the varying Taylors. When Swift delves into Evermore, she emerges in a gothic cloak and whimsical orange gown. As fir trees ascend from beneath the stage, dancers illuminate the darkened floor with glowing lamps and form ritualistic circles. And within the same era, the stage design for ‘tolerate it’ is deliberately reduced to a singular dinner table, as Swift’s carefully constructed narrative unfolds.

Yet Swift’s use of aesthetics is not the only aspect that works to distinguish between the various eras: her very performance pinpoints the tonal disposition for each album. In Lover, her wide-eyed exuberance and playful sensibility is a nod to the album’s uplifting pop-joy, whereas in Reputation she possesses a vengeful demeanour, staring her audience down as she recalls her period of reclamation. But possibly the most moving of all is her closing ‘era’, Midnights. Swift opens her final album with ‘Lavender Haze’, as she pivots between lilac clouds and shrugs on an indigo fur coat, bejewelled with delicate ornate droplets. Once the last notes of ‘Karma’ ring out across the stadium, Swift wraps her arms around her fellow performers and makes sure to thank her crew and band for their contributions. Then she walks the length of the stage alone, taking a well-deserved final bow and blowing affectionate kisses to her audience. The screen fades to black and a friendship bracelet is formed, spelling out a thank you to her beloved fans. As her Speak Now song ‘Long Live’ kicks in, a long-time homage to the dedication of her fans, we flick through images of Swifties at concerts. Some are dressed as Taylor, some in reference to lyrics or moments from an album of hers: each look seems intricately strung together and the result of many hours of handiwork. The companionship in each picture is apparent, particularly elevating the banding together of teenage girls and women.

This sense of camaraderie is not just limited to the live concerts. On my way out of the cinema, groups of costumed teenage girls from earlier screenings take turns posing in front of the backdrop, recalling moments from the film and affectionately reciting lyrics.

And this is where the difference lies between the Eras Tour and other concert films preceding its release: the dedication of her fans is simply unrivalled. Scrolling through hashtags of the opening night, it’s clear how devoted the cinemagoers are to her performance. Video after video depicts crowds flooding the floor and dancing to each song, forming their very own concert experience. The impossible-to-secure tickets to Swift’s live shows seem to permit this kind of response, with thousands of hopeful fans missing out (Ticketmaster, I’m looking at you). There is also the sense of a post-pandemic community in these showings, creating a space where viewers can happily mingle, trading bracelets and chanting in unison.

Breaking the record for the highest-grossing concert film in American history in just three days is no easy feat, but breaking records is something Swift seems to do daily (the most number-one albums by a female artist in history? Light work). The complexity of her concert, both visually and narratively, solidifies her status as a truly world-class performer.

Is this celebration of the concert film specific to Taylor herself? There’s no doubting the success of The Eras Tour– its 95m opening positions it above all other concert films- but with Beyonce’s recent announcement that her The Renaissance World Tour will also be receiving a worldwide cinema release, other pop star screenings might soon climb the ranks too. In the absence of normal screenings due to SAG-AFTRA strikes, might these concerts fill in the “blank space” on cinema listings?

Perhaps this trend gestures to an exciting new wave of concert cinema. This movement- largely funded by the interests of girls and women- should not be viewed as tarnishing the reputation of cinema, but instead, be seen as making significant strides in revitalising cinema post-Covid. These recorded performances are a form of accessible outreach, inspiring companionship beyond the pricey and limited run of live shows. So everyone can make friendship bracelets.


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