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Theater owners love Beyoncé and Taylor Swift's movies as much as fans do

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

"Renaissance: A Film By Beyonce" took in more than $27 million this weekend. That's a global figure, and that's barely a quarter of what Taylor Swift's concert movie took in a few weeks ago. But NPR's Bob Mondello says theater owners are delighted.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: If this had been a head-to-head race, Beyonce would have taken a quick lead.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HEATED")

BEYONCE: (Singing) Got a lot of bands, got a lot of Chanel on me.

MONDELLO: Thursday night previews for "Renaissance" topped $5 million, nearly double the preview take for Taylor Swift's Eras Tour movie. But as industry watchers quickly pointed out, just two days before the Taylor Swift movie opened, she was still saying there wouldn't be any previews because she wanted to open on her lucky Friday the 13th.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHAKE IT OFF")

TAYLOR SWIFT: (Singing) That's what they don't know. But I keep cruising.

MONDELLO: Theater owners persuaded her at the last moment that all big movies these days have previews. And indeed, once they were hastily scheduled, her Swifties found them to the tune of $2.8 million.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHAKE IT OFF")

SWIFT: (Singing) 'Cause the players gonna play, play, play, play, play.

MONDELLO: No such confusion slowed "Renaissance." Queen Bey's fans have been able to buy advanced preview tickets for weeks, so it's not really surprising that she did better out of the gate. But with Beyonce appealing to an older demographic, and with the week after Thanksgiving traditionally a terrible week at the box office, no one expected her film to keep up that pace.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM")

BEYONCE: (Singing) Make you wait a whole week for me.

MONDELLO: She ended the weekend with $22 million in North America and another 6 million overseas, which, back when Swift opened in mid-October, might have seemed lackluster. The first weekend in December, it's a win for everybody.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AMERICA HAS A PROBLEM")

BEYONCE: (Singing) Know that booty gon' do what it want to.

MONDELLO: That's because there's something unusual about both these concert movies, they bypassed the Hollywood establishment. During the pandemic, theater owners complained, as film studios kept delaying openings and streaming movies rather than sending them to cinemas, that they needed fresh product to keep their doors open. Now they found an angle.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HALO")

BEYONCE: (Singing) I got my angel now.

MONDELLO: Beyonce and Taylor Swift both signed contracts for their concert films directly with theater owners, specifically with AMC theaters. The deal, with no Hollywood middlemen to siphon off fees and advertising costs, the pop stars get $0.50 of every dollar that comes in at the box office, a much better split than they'd get from a studio, and the theater owners get full houses in weeks they'd usually do very little business.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HALO")

BEYONCE: You know you're my saving grace.

MONDELLO: As for the battle of the divas, Beyonce didn't match Taylor Swift's box office numbers, but she's still got bragging rights. "Renaissance" is among the top openings ever for the first weekend in December.

I'm Bob Mondello.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "HALO")

BEYONCE: (Singing) I can feel your halo, halo, halo. I can see your halo, halo, halo. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.