Barbie Rocked Our Summer, But Autumn Belongs to Taylor Swift

Why her concert film is crushing the box office

A larger-than-life blonde appears on screen, exuding confidence in a domain that is indisputably her own. She is unabashedly feminine and undeniably feminist, embracing sparkles and self-empowerment. And she's crushing the box office.

Barbie? Not this time. 

It's Taylor Swift, an irresistible cultural force who has parlayed a record-breaking national tour into a movie sensation, notching the highest-grossing concert film in domestic theaters with an impressive $93 million haul so far.

Swift also hit the second-highest domestic opening ever in October, a balm to the box office. Similar to the blonde dynamo who owned the screen all summer, Taylor's appeal spans eager elementary schoolers, Swift-teens, young adults and devoted mom fans. 

According to Comscore/Screen Engine PostTrak data, the audience leans heavily female (82 percent), with a fairly even split across age ranges. Nearly a third of the audience falls between the ages of 13 and 17 (32 percent), while another 32 percent of ticket sales came from 25–34-year-old buyers. 

Why are girls and women turning out in droves to watch a pre-recorded concert in a movie theater? For many of the same reasons Barbie became a global phenomenon. A film that celebrates women—with a healthy dose of escapism, music, fun, fashion and friendship—exerts a magnetic pull. It's a party, and we're all invited. 

When Barbie, that Technicolor takedown of the patriarchy, hit screens, women didn't simply duck into showings for a casual matinee. The magic stemmed from the ambiance of a communal event.

Donning pink outfits, making plans with friends, scheduling mother/daughter dates, posing for photos against the Barbie backdrop—these elements transformed the film from a passive experience into a richly interactive and fulfilling one. To the tune of more than $1.4 billion at the box office. 

Now the The Eras Tour is offering similar enticement.

It provides a safe and welcoming space to trade friendship bracelets, sing out loud, dance in the aisles and connect with other women.

Taylor and her tour function as a beacon for inclusion, creating places where women and girls can feel welcome, part of a generation-spanning sorority where the only requirement is fandom. To be a Swiftie—at this particular time—is to feel aligned with a range of positive, female-forward sentiments.

For those who couldn't secure a seat for the actual tour, the film doesn't feel like a consolation prize. The sheer amount of ticket sales proves otherwise; the doc is a well-received brand extension.

In less than three months, two dominant blondes have captured our cinematic attention and dollars, demanding no less than a full reframing of how women consume content and what drives moviegoers to fill theaters.

Barbie and Taylor not only rule the box office, but are shaping the narrative of this cultural moment. 

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Rachel Gillman Rischall
Rachel Gillman Rischall is the founder of Three PR.

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