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Thursday, May 23, 2024

“If This Was a Movie”: “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour”

It is hard to go online these days without seeing a mention of Taylor Swift. 

The singer’s colossal Eras Tour dominated the summer, clogging Instagram feeds with fan videos and consistently headlining major media outlets. Then news broke of her apparent new relationship with Kansas City Chiefs tight end, Travis Kelce, leading to a stunning spike in football viewership. Finally, on Oct. 13, the filmed version of Swift’s tour, entitled “Taylor Swift: the Eras Tour,” smashed box office records, bringing in almost $100 million in North American ticket sales.

After Ticketmaster crashed during Eras Tour presales last fall, leaving fans stranded in digital waiting lines or without a ticket, Swift’s late-August announcement that she would be releasing a self-produced concert movie only two months after the end of her US circuit was met with universal delight. For movie theaters bearing the burden of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, Swift’s legions of fans, affectionately known as “Swifties,” represented guaranteed sales. 

The playfully-marketed ticket price — $19.89, itself a reference to Swift’s birth year and record-breaking re-released studio album — is certainly more expensive than an average movie ticket, but given the dearth of available tour tickets and the gauged resale prices, this price could be seen as a steal. Plus, rather than craning their necks from the nosebleeds, cinemagoers are guaranteed the best angle for every moment, highlighting intricate choreography with an aerial shot or zooming in for a closeup during a ballad. 

“[My] own personal excitement of being able to see her for the first time live was just something that I think is impossible to replicate,” Hannah Dorosin ’24 wrote in a message to The Campus. 

Still, Dorosin emphasized the unique benefits of the film. “At the actual tour I had been so far up in the nosebleeds that I missed so many of those details (although being able to see the entire crowd lit up from their bracelets was so cool), and being able to see it on the big screen from right up close and personal with Taylor gave me a whole new perspective.”  

Evidently enough Middlebury residents felt this way given that the Marquis Theatre had several sold-out showings during opening weekend. At 6:00 p.m., the main theater was packed with college students and younger kids, with noticeably far more women and girls. The crowd was dressed in a mixture of concert merch (for lucky past attendees) and sparkles, with some theatergoers choosing to embody one of the ten specific “Eras” of music that the concert features. 

During the first few songs, the audience was quiet, but by the time the first era, “Lover,” concluded, viewers seemed to have established an unspoken camaraderie that allowed them to sing along unabashedly for the remainder of the film’s 169 minutes. While that might seem long for a movie — even nowadays — it is important to note that a full five songs were cut from the film to reduce the runtime.

“Taylor Swift: the Eras Tour” features music that was written over almost two decades, helping to explain the performance’s wide range of emotional and aesthetic styles. Swift’s dreamy “Speak Now” ballgown contrasts with her “Reputation” era asymmetrical serpentine jumpsuit, and the signature red soles of Christian Louboutin shoes flashed throughout the performance. In addition to lightning-fast costume changes, the concert marked the shifts in mood through elaborate lighting and set design. “Evermore,” for example, offered a witchy atmosphere, featuring hooded dancers and rolling fog, while its sister album “Folklore” saw Swift at home inside a fairytale forest cabin.

“The movie really gives insight into the story she is trying to tell with each era, allowing you to focus deeply on her and her music, and while it may be impossible to recreate the actual intense feeling of being at the live show, the movie is a whole separate experience that is equally as exciting and breathtaking," Dorosin said. 

This visual and aural dexterity, in addition to Swift’s uncanny ability to replicate her recorded vocals during a three-hour live performance, was part of what delighted audiences.

Daniela Roldan Cabrera ’24 raved about the film’s visuals. “I loved that I got to see Taylor, the stage and her crew so up close, which is not necessarily what happens at the concert,” she said.

 “I also really enjoyed the additional effects used to separate the different eras while still having seamless transitions. I still wish all the songs from the concert had been included, but overall I had such a great experience. It allowed me to cry, laugh and sing along with Taylor and other Swifties in the room who were just as excited as I was!”

Lily McGovern ’25 also had the chance to see the Eras Tour in-person over the summer, but still made sure to see the film adaptation. In fact, following the film’s announcement in August, before the Middlebury Marquis had released tickets, McGovern promptly purchased tickets to a showing in Plattsburgh, N.Y., thinking it would be the closest location for her to see the film. Despite having seen the in-person tour, she still emphasized the sense of community felt in the theater. 

“People really had that same excitement to see the movie, especially since it was so hard to go to the concert, so it still felt like a whole experience,” she said. “I loved being able to see the choreography and costumes up close, and I noticed so many details that I originally missed when I was at the concert.”

Though the dominant demographic appeared to be college-aged women, several guests skewed the data. Among them was Schumann Distinguished Scholar Bill McKibben. 

In an email to The Campus, McKibben wrote, “Loved it — less for the music, which seems not all that memorable to my old ears, but for the exuberance she manages to project to 100,000 people, and the world beyond.” He added, “It seemed to me as if she was a kind of antidote to the slightly sad staring-at-your-phone that marks our moment; every song seems to be about someone who’s done her wrong, but none of it has gotten her down, and she's still ready to go!”

If Bill McKibben has beat you to becoming a Swiftie, consider this your cue. Dip your toe in by streaming the newly released “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” — complete with six new singles! — then relish in the full history of Swift’s oeuvre with “The Eras Tour” film, in theaters now.

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Acadia Klepeis

Acadia Klepeis ’24 (she/her) is an Arts & Culture Editor. 

She is an English major and a French and Francophone Studies minor. Last year, Cadi studied literature in Paris and in Oxford through Middlebury’s school abroad programs. She spent this past summer working as a communications intern for the Vermont Arts Council. Previously, she completed internships with Tuttle Publishing, Theatre in Paris, and Town Hall Theater. Cadi is also on the board for Middlebury College Musical Theatre.