Taylor Swift attends the 2023 MTV Video Music Awards at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, U.S., September 12, 2023
Taylor Swift. Image Credit: Reuters

Pop singer Taylor Swift ruled movie box offices over the weekend as her concert film transformed darkened theatres into dance floors and hauled in an estimated $126 million-plus around the world.

Moviegoers dressed in concert T-shirts and sequins for screenings of 'Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.' At many showings, fans stood to sing along and move to the beat of 'Shake It Off,' 'Anti-Hero' and other hits from Swift's 17-year career.

The turnout provided a welcome jolt to cinemas facing a lacklustre autumn slate after a strike by Hollywood actors prompted studios to delay titles such as 'Dune: Part Two.' US and Canadian ticket sales for 'The Eras Tour' were expected to reach $95 million to $97 million by the end of Sunday, distributor AMC Theatres said.

That would surpass the $73 million that Justin Bieber's 2011 release 'Never Say Never,' the current record holder for a concert film, collected over its entire run.

"This is a superstar debut," Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co, said of Swift's film.

"It was a party in a movie theater." 'The Eras Tour' added as much as $33 million in international markets, according to AMC estimates, for a global total of $126 million to $130 million.

The concert is set to be shown in theatres in more countries including Brazil, South Korea and Malaysia in November.

If current estimates hold, Swift's domestic tally will fall short of the most bullish projections from box office analysts, who had forecast $100 million to $140 million.

Turnout had been tricky to predict, analysts said, because the film was different from the blockbuster action movies that normally top box office charts.

No movie debut in October has ever exceeded $100 million domestically. 'Joker' brought in $96.2 million in 2019.

Overall, domestic ticket sales for all of 2023 so far were running 26 per cent ahead of last year, according to Comscore data, but nearly 17 per cent below 2019's pre-pandemic tally. Studios have released 16 fewer films in theatres this year compared to the same point in 2019.

Swift fans were thrilled to see the 'Eras Tour' on the big screen. Many missed the chance to see the singer in person after ticket-seller Ticketmaster suffered outages and resale prices for seats soared into thousands of dollars.

"Given how hard it is to get a ticket to a concert, I think it is really fantastic that people who aren't fortunate enough to get there get the opportunity to see it in a venue like this," moviegoer Stephanie Gaudette said at a screening at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

'The Eras Tour,' recorded at shows at SoFi Stadium outside Los Angeles, received a rare A+ score in audience polling by CinemaScore, and a 100 per cent positive rating from film critics on the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Pop singer Beyonce will follow Swift by bringing her Renaissance Tour to theatres in December, another release that will help theatres fill gaps left by the ongoing strike by Hollywood actors. Hopes for a quick end to the work stoppage were dashed last week when labour negotiations broke down.

The National Association of Theatre Owners said a survey of 6,000 moviegoers found that 72 per cent want to see more concerts films in cinemas.