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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

If Taylor Swift and Beyoncé are movie stars, what’s that mean for actual movie stars?

Taylor Swift performs at Soldier Field on June 2 in Chicago.  (Shanna Madison/Chicago Tribune/TNS)
Adam Graham, Detroit News

From wire reports

Two of the most talked about and most anticipated movies of the fall are concert films from Taylor Swift and Beyoncé.

That’s a good thing for both of the pop musicians’ camps, and a weird thing for the movie industry and, you know, actual movie stars.

Well it’s a good thing in that the two movies will bring people to theaters. That’s something that’s desperately needed right now, as the box office has been in the doldrums since the one-two punch of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” back in July. Box office analyst Gitesh Pandya points out last weekend’s top 10 films at the North American box office grossed $77.7 million, which is less than the same weekend 25 years ago, when “Antz” opened in theaters and the top 10 grossed $80.3 million – and that was at 1998 ticket prices.

Moviegoing has been replaced as the dominant form of entertainment in a world where streaming, gaming, staring at TikTok and so many other forms of distraction are available. The pandemic put a rocket booster on that trajectory, and people fell out of the habit of regularly going to movies.

They’ll go back for event screenings, which is how the Swift and Beyoncé movies have garnered so much prerelease attention. But if Taylor Swift is now a bigger movie star than Leonardo DiCaprio, whose “Killers of the Flower Moon” will open Oct. 20 with a fraction of the ticket sales and buzz of Swift’s “The Eras Tour” movie, that’s something Hollywood needs to examine going forward.

Concert films have been around since the 1940s and have largely existed in the margins of the movie industry. Justin Bieber’s 2011 doc “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” is the top-grossing concert film of all-time, pulling down $73 million domestically, followed by Michael Jackson’s “This Is It,” which raked in $72 million in 2009. Movies from Miley Cyrus (as Hannah Montana), One Direction and Katy Perry, all released in the last 15 years, round out the top five.

That list will change next weekend when Swift’s “Eras Tour” movie hits screens. The document of Swift’s summertime phenomenon, the encapsulation of her career until now, has already eclipsed $100 million in advance ticket sales, its distributor said this week. It’s on track to experience one of the biggest openings of the year.

It’s a blockbuster at a time when Hollywood desperately needs a blockbuster. The ongoing actors strike affected an already iffy fall slate, and November’s “Dune” sequel packed up and headed to March, leaving a sizable hole in the season’s release schedule. So it’s a good thing Swift swooped in to save the day, since no one else was stepping up.

Swift has released concert films before, but never in theaters. That’s the secret sauce that tickled Beyoncé’s taste buds, and she’s set to follow with her own “Renaissance” tour film on Dec. 1. Advance tickets went on sale this week and garnered around $7 million in first-day sales, on par with the first-day sales of recent “Avatar” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” offerings, Deadline reports.

Swift and Beyoncé’s concert films are both being marketed as star vehicles, the way movies used to be sold. But at a time when bankable movie stars are fewer and more far between, concepts and properties are leading the box office: “Barbie,” the year’s No. 1 movie, didn’t smash records because of Margot Robbie, it was because of Barbie, just like Super Mario was the star of the year’s second highest grosser, “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” not Chris Pratt. Stick Taylor Swift in a romantic comedy and it might not sell, but Taylor Swift doing the thing Taylor Swift does best? Listen to those cash registers ring.

So where are the actual movie stars? DiCaprio’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” directed by Martin Scorsese, is tracking for an opening of around $24 million, per Deadline. Which actually isn’t bad for a three and-a-half hour period piece, but it’s not doing “Eras Tour” numbers. (DiCaprio’s last movie in theaters, Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” opened to $41 million on its way to $235 million in domestic receipts.)

It looks like there’s not much that will be putting up “Eras Tour” numbers the rest of the year. In terms of potential hits, there’s the Marvel offering “The Marvels” on Nov. 10 and the “Hunger Games” prequel, “The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes,” on Nov. 17. Then there’s… “Wonka?” “Trolls Band Together?” The new “Aquaman” movie?

If you build it, they will come. That was the lesson from “Barbenheimer,” which got people out of the house and excited about going to the theater to experience something that seemingly everyone else was experiencing, too. There’s just not a lot of other people building it these days. If it’s now up to pop stars to fill our movie theaters as well as our arenas and stadiums, at least someone is doing the work. Two tickets for the Harry Styles movie, please.