Will the Eras tour bring back the concert film?

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Hollywood loves repeat success and now more than ever it needs it. If there is a promising way to attract people to movie theaters that the industry No take advantage, it will only contribute to the decline of its own future. So when I left “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour”, having experienced, for the first time in a long time, what it was like to share a concert film with an ecstatic audience, one of my first thoughts was: “How could they do this again?”

You could say it’s a silly question, since it has an obvious answer: they can’t. There is only one Taylor Swift, the most epic global pop superstar since “Thriller”-era Michael Jackson. And there’s only one Taylor Swift fan base. Until “The Eras Tour,” no concert film in history had made this amount of money (although “Woodstock,” which grossed $34.5 million in 1970, came closer than you might think). And perhaps no future concert film ever will. Although the monstrous success of “The Eras Tour” has been the financial savior of the fall movie season, it would be easy to celebrate that success and still consider it a fantastic anomaly.

But I think the real answer to the question “How could they do this again?” is actually: “There are several ways.” Yes, there is only one Taylor Swift. But there is also only one Beyoncé and she has her own concert film,”Renaissance: a Beyoncé movie”, which premieres on December 1. Should prove to be a big draw, if not at the next level of Taylorsphere. Beyond Beyoncé, there is more than one strategy to bring pop music films back to theaters in a way that helps the industry and redefines concert films as a thriving genre.

There are 52 weeks in a year, and each of those weeks that features a wide-release movie that people are lining up to see falls into the positive column of maintaining the theatrical experience. Sometimes the number one release of the week is a Marvel adventure, or a “Fast and Furious,” Bond thriller, or “Jurassic Park,” or “Mission: Impossible,” or some other blockbuster. the franchise. Sometimes it’s an animated fantasy or a gory horror movie that pushes enough buttons to connect. Sometimes it’s even a movie, like “Oppenheimer,” that critics love. On that note, I propose this: For two or three of those 52 weeks, why couldn’t the week’s blockbuster release be a concert movie that legions of fans are excited enough to come see?

An obvious answer is: that hasn’t happened in quite some time. The concert film never went away, but looking beyond the 20th century classics (“Woodstock,” “Gimme Shelter,” “The Last Waltz,” and “stop making sense”, which is enjoying a successful resurgence for its 40th anniversary), peaked as a commercial genre in the late 2000s, the period that gave us “U2 3D” (2008), “Hannah Montana and Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert” (2008), “This Is It” by Michael Jackson (2009), “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” (2011), “Katy Perry: Part of Me” (2013) and the Martin Scorsese film on the Rolling Stones, “Shine a Light” (2008). Since then, the genre has faded and become something that is broadcast directly and goes unnoticed, although two years ago Questlove’s “Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” showed us the magic. that still lives in the vaults.

So if the concert film faded on its own and became more of something you can watch at home, why do I think it might come back? “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” points out exactly how that could happen. In a way, it all comes down to one word: currency.

“The Eras Tour” surely would have been a box office hit when it was released, like, say, if it had come out next summer. But of all the ways it broke the paradigm (running time 2 hours and 49 minutes; released not by a studio but directly through AMC Theatres), I would say the most surprising and commercially significant is the fact that it will be released right on end of the first stage of the Eras Tour and, in fact, the tour will continue after the screening of the film. This greatly enhances the inherent value of the film. It’s not a live video stream (it’s a honed and polished cinematic experience), but it does offer the chance to see Taylor Swift in concert amid the hustle and bustle of her tour. As someone who never got tickets to the show, I took my daughters to see the movie and we felt it was more than just the best option. The appropriate element, the now of everything, added to the emotion.

This could become a new model. That would have to be worked out with concert promoters, but in an age where concert ticket prices are out of control, imagine what a draw it would be to have concert movies in theaters right after the tours they’re capturing. As with Swift, many fans would want to go back and watch the concert again with the intimacy that movies can offer, and tons of fans who hadn’t attended the show could watch the movie instead. You could easily imagine that model working with an artist like Harry Styles, or with Elton John’s recent Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour.

But I think there is another way to rethink the concert film genre. The 21st century concert movie hit list I listed above included a number of teen pop acts (Justin Bieber, Miley when she was Hannah), and that’s part of Taylor Swift’s demo, too. Therefore, it may seem that, except for someone like Harry Styles, there are not many musical artists who can attract people to movie theaters on a large scale. But I think that perception is disconnected from something that has been a fundamental reality of the concert world for a long time: It is driven, to a surprisingly high degree, by classic boomer and now Gen X nostalgia.

The second most important concert tour of 2023, after the Eras Tour, has been that of Bruce Springsteen. Also in the top 10 are the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who, at this point, are selling ’90s nostalgia. (I don’t mean that as a knock on them; I love the Chili Peppers. But that’s what it is.) I could easily imagine a Springsteen movie attracting a large audience, although with one caveat: It would only work if the industry committed to marketing it as a true event. The same goes for the Chili Peppers, or another group that has done well in concert recently and whose appeal goes back 35 years: Guns N’ Roses. Let me use my own heavy self as an example of something. I’m someone who loved Guns N’ Roses in the past but probably wouldn’t want to go to one of their reunion shows. Frankly, it would be too tough a test. But would I go to a Guns N’ Roses concert? movie? You bet. And I bet a lot of other veteran metal-bash fans would too. Speaking of metal, a Metallica concert film, done right, would be a big draw.

Moving away from rock nostalgia, however, there are a host of other acts, old and new, that one could easily imagine drawing viewers into a timely, well-produced and cleverly marketed cinematic concert experience. I’m thinking of artists like Coldplay, Lizzo, Billy Joel, Pink, The Weeknd, the reunited NSYNC, Billie Eilish, Bad Bunny, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Public Enemy… and Madonna! And how about U2 Sphere shows or ABBA hologram concerts? How many viewers around the world, who don’t have access to those shows, would watch the film version in an instant? No one can say for sure. What I do know is that concert films have been in a box for too long. “The Eras Tour” opened that box. Now is the time to start thinking beyond that.

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