I couldn’t tell you whether Adam Aron, the CEO of AMC Theatres, personally convinced the musical sensation Beyoncé to release a film version of her Renaissance concert tour directly through the world’s largest cinema chain turned indie distributor. What I can tell you is that no sooner had the singer taken her final bow at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City last Sunday AMC sent out a press release announcing “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” would be opening in theatres on 1 December.
One could surmise that since AMC is based in Kansas City, Aron was backstage on 1 October pitching the idea to Beyoncé and her team, just like he did with Taylor Swift earlier this year. Or maybe they both got the idea on 7 September when, in writing about “Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour,” we said Beyoncé may be the only artist who could release a concert film directly through movie theatres without a traditional distributor. (Don’t worry, we’re not asking for a cut.) More realistically, the production of the film was planned some time ago with the announcement tied to Beyoncé’s final North American date on the Renaissance World Tour. To date, Beyoncé’s ninth concert tour has raked in USD $579 million making it the seventh. highest-grossing tour in history, and the highest-grossing tour ever by a female artist.
However we wound up here, AMC’s press announcement came in just before midnight last Sunday, followed shortly thereafter by those from every exhibitor with a public relations department. It marks the second time in under a month that concert film for a massive world tour went on sale at movie theatres. The first being the aforementioned Swift film. Unlike Swift, who started out by announcing a North American release, Beyoncé made it known that her film would be a worldwide release from the outset. While I was initially disappointed that Beyoncé’s film should be hitting theatres so soon after Swift’s for fear that the two would be unfairly compared, I soon realized such comparisons are inevitable.
During last week’s CJ Cinema Summit, Paul Dergarabedian, Senior Media Analyst for Comscore, gave a rundown of the top grossing concert films of all time, going all the way back to Woodstock in 1970 (USD $ 35 million). He wasn’t the only analyst to compare box office for concert movies, with every trade and mainstream media story about Swift’s film questioning whether she would top the USD $73 million North American gross of “Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” from 2011. We didn’t even need to wait for “Taylor Swift | The Eras Tour” to hit theatres to answer that question. On Thursday AMC surprised absolutely nobody when they sent out another release touting how Swift’s film had sold more than USD $100 million in advance tickets globally.
This comes after their initial announcement that ticket presales for Swift’s movie had reached USD $26 million, an AMC record for single-day advance ticket sales. We didn’t get such news after the first-day of pre-sales from “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé,” though reports surfaced that it came in between USD $6 and $7 million in North America. Oddly enough, exhibitors in some foreign territories have been told not to put tickets for the Beyoncé film on sale or include it on their websites yet. Presumably that embargo will lift this week.
Comparisons of grosses for Beyoncé and Swifts concert films will be made a bit more complicated by the fact that cinema operators can only show “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” Thursday through Sunday. This could potentially wreak havoc for film programmers who, after dedicated a large percentage of their screens to Beyoncé’s film during the opening weekend, will need to program those auditoriums with different titles for Monday, Tuesday and Wedensday. Joe Garel, Vice President of Film at Cinepolis Cinemas USA was quick to say during our recent summit, that this wouldn’t be a problem for most theatre owners, as they have plenty of releases to backfill. He also was looking forward to seeing how sales per patron crept up during the run of the two concert films.
And though I would have preferred to see Beyoncé’s film hit theatres early next year to get some distance from Swift’s movie, let’s face it, these musicians are so big its hard to imagine that there can be one too many concert films with their names on them being released so close together. It’s certainly good news for movie theatres and great news for Swfties and the Beyhive. Plus, now anyone who couldn’t donate a kidney to purchase a ticket to one of their concerts this summer can see two of the world’s hottest musical acts in a fantastic setting with immersive audio and fantastic projection. I count myself among this latter group.
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