With the incredibly successful releases of Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé and Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, 2023 proved itself to be the year of the concert film. A concert film is exactly what it sounds like—a film about a concert, usually featuring documentary-style behind-the-scenes coverage alongside footage of the music performances. And while they’ve been around for a long time (since 1944’s Adventure in Music, in fact), concert films have always been a bit of a niche interest. But with the recent box office hits, they just might be in vogue again.
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour (2023)
Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour premiered in October 2023 as a box office smash, earning $26 million within its first three hours. It has grossed over $261 million worldwide, beating out Michael Jackson’s This Is It (2009) to become the highest-grossing concert film of all time. Coming in just under three hours, the film is an artistic depiction of the global pop star’s The Eras Tour. The still-ongoing tour features a massive set list from all ten of Taylor Swift’s studio albums—a representation of her musical “eras”. Spanning 5 continents, 151 shows, and over a year of performances, this is building up to be one of the biggest global tours to date.
The film’s success isn’t only because of Swift’s lyrical skill and loyal fan base—a lot of it comes down to an ingenious business approach to distribution. Swift’s team bypassed traditional distributors and negotiated directly with AMC Theatres, effectively cutting out the middlemen. They even received an exemption from SAG-AFTRA to continue production during the 2023 strike. This unorthodox approach set the groundwork for record-breaking ticket sales.
Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé (2023)
On the other side of the global music spectrum, we find the once-in-a-generation phenomenon, Beyoncé. Written and directed by Beyoncé herself, Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé gives us a glimpse into the action behind the scenes of the star’s Renaissance World Tour based on her seventh studio album. So far, it has grossed over $44 million worldwide. Similar to Taylor’s approach, Beyoncé signed a distribution agreement with AMC Theatres. The two releases, though built for different genres and different fan bases, marked the first time that two different concert films debuted at the top of the box office in the same year.
This is not Beyoncé’s first concert film; she already released the hit Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé in 2019. Homecoming was a masterclass in the pursuit of perfection, but Renaissance shows us a more organic side of an entertainer letting go of the pressures of living up to expectations. The show included nostalgic elements like a brief Destiny’s Child reunion, performances from artists like Diana Ross and Megan Thee Stallion, as well as the stage debut of Beyoncé’s first-born, Blue Ivy.
So, Are Concert Films Back?
The truth is, they never really left. In the 2010s, there was an uptick in concert films with movies like Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and One Direction: This is Us, followed by a downward slope in the following decade. Bey and Taylor have simply reignited a flame that never really died. 2023 also saw international K-pop boyband BTS release their concert film BTS: Yet to Come which has raked in over $29 million worldwide. As an honourable mention, Martin Scorsese’s Last Waltz was back in theatres for its 45th anniversary in October 2023.
Concert films rely heavily on the fan bases of each given artist, so as a genre, their popularity are prone to fluctuation. Regardless, 2023 showed us that concert films still have a lot of untapped potential. What’s the next concert movie you plan to see?