Taylor Swift

Concert films | An easy way to make more money, or genuine works of art?

More and more artists are making films of their live performances, from Taylor Swift to Beyoncé. But are they meritable works of art or all-too-easy ways of squeezing out more money?

Last weekend, I spent what felt like three days watching Scorcese’s new epic, Killers Of The Flower Moon. I felt like I was born in that cinema. Myself and the couch were one. Two parts of the same machine, bound together in eternity. (Can you tell I didn’t really rate it?). I’d already read a headline earlier that day that Taylor Swift’s shot at the box office, The Eras Tour, was still beating it in the ratings.

My instinctive reaction was one of snobbery, I felt extremely old as my knee-jerk thought was ‘Nobody cares about proper films anymore, it’s just pop stars trying to make more cash.’ Then I watched the ‘proper’ film, and looked into these tour films, and decided actually, they’re brilliant.

I have a friend who is a film buff. We all have one, it’s custom in your thirties to have one pal who knows everything about films, one about music, maybe one about wine (although this probably comes post-divorce) and one who tells you what political views we should all be holding. My film friend, when I told him I was writing about tour films, said he was thrilled they’d become a thing. Cinemas are struggling, after all. I hadn’t even thought of that.

Taylor Swift concert tour

Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour has been a smash-hit at the box office. Photo: Taylor Swift Productions.

These films have brought a brand- new audience out to the pictures, at a time when they really need it. The Eras Tour will eventually be available on Netflix, as I imagine everything we’ve ever touched, looked at, thought about, or eaten will be one day;, but at the moment, the only way to see it is in the cinema. Swift also, true to form, decided that she’d bypass distributors and go straight to cinemas, raking in way more cash for herself in the process, and more for the cinemas. Does she ever do anything the traditional way that’s benefitted men in suits for decades on end? Thankfully, no.

Beyoncé went to the premiere of Swift’s film, and then announced her own. Renaissance: A Film By Beyoncé’ (I bet the Swiftie crew were livid when they saw that tagline) comes out on the 12 January; just in time for our Christmas comedown, when we need to feel like there might be some joy in the world again.

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Although Taylor’s is more ‘here’s the tour show as if you had the best seats in the house’, – Beyonce’s looks a little more behind- the- scenes from the trailer. We were also recently served with the Beckham documentary, which showed how celebrity docs commissioned by the star themselves tend to be a fun watch, but of course, you’re never going to get a truly balanced view of everything that happened, because they have the sign off.

That’s probably true of these films, too, but the difference is, we’re watching for the show, for the music, not for whether or not they were an arsehole to work with or were secretly hiding a drug problem. (That’s for the documentaries that come out years after their death, duh). Tickets to both Beyonce and Taylor’s world tours were eye-wateringly expensive, and of course a huge majority of their fans couldn’t afford to go, so why not bring the show to them and help cinemas in the process?

I remember when Beyoncé’s Homecoming was released on Netflix after her landmark Coachella performance (she was the first black woman to headline the festival) and I went round to my best friend’s house to watch it. I’m not a Beyonce superfan, but it was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I loved it so much I felt like it was probably better than being there, seeing a snipper of the preparation it took to bring it all together;, the angles, the close-ups of her essentially telling Jay-Z never to even think about it ever again (‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’, Lemonade) and then bringing him on afterwards for Deja-Vu, like a puppy with its tail between its legs. Iconic. I wish someone would do this for every major gig I’ve been to so I could enjoy it again afterwards. 

Next week I’m going to watch the Pete Doherty film Stranger in My Own Skin;, a few months ago I went to watch Meet Me In The Bathroom, and I’ve got the Marc Bolan Angelheaded Hipster on my list too. Not to mention the Talking Heads one that everyone’s talking about. What’s the difference between these and two of the biggest stars on the planet giving everyone a slice of the magic? 

Every group has a film buff, a wine nerd, and a music snob, and I’m determined not to be the latter. I’ve decided I’m going to watch The Eras Tour, with a large popcorn, a Diet Coke the size of my head, and book a ticket for Beyoncé on my way out. Long live cinema, long live music.

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