Taylor Swift Meets Fans Behind the Mall

One day not long ago, AMC Theatres CEO Adam Aron flew to Los Angeles for a covert meeting with Rick Caruso, the billionaire real estate developer who operates open-air shopping center The Grove. He was looking for a venue large and secure enough to stage the world premiere of Taylor Swift’s concert film. “Of course we immediately said yes,” Caruso tells Vanity Fair. Even if that meant agreeing to shut down the entire mall for the first time in its 21-year history. “We’ve never done this,” Caruso says. “I’m not sure it would ever happen again, to be honest.”

The top secret project involved meeting with the LA police and fire departments and local politicians and informing The Grove’s more than 50 tenants about the planned closure. (Don’t worry, they’re reimbursing those small businesses and independent merchants for the lost sales.) Eventually, word leaked—there were road closures and helicopters flying overhead, after all—but it’s not really in keeping with Swift to be all that subtle anyway. “Over the last few weeks, the teams have all worked together really hard to make sure that we have a really engaged, fun experience for all the guests and the fans,” Caruso says, adding that they wanted to “just create a great experience.”

On Wednesday, The Grove closed to the public, and Caruso rolled out a Lover pink carpet for Swift, who had invited some 2,200 of her most devoted fans—and a few bold names, among them Julia Garner, Simu Liu, and Adam Sandler—to be among the first to screen Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour. Before the show, they milled around the mall, exchanging friendship bracelets and watching a Taylor Swift-themed water show at The Grove’s iconic fountain. Then Miss Americana herself arrived. Dressed in a blue Oscar de la Renta floral cutout gown, her signature waves pulled up into a chic bob, she walked up and down the carpet chatting with fans and posing for photos. There were screams, yes, but also a stillness as they each stepped aside to give their fellow Swifties a moment to meet their idol.

Finally, into the AMC multiplex they went, grabbing full-sized boxes of movie theater candy, popcorn—in a collectible Eras Tour bucket, naturally—and nachos before they were shuffled into 13 different theaters to watch the sumptuous two hour, 48 minute film. But first: Swift made an appearance in every theater. “I hope when you watch it, you’ll feel this, but you are such a main character in it,” she told the Swifties. “Because your spirit and your magic and your attention to detail and your passion and the ways that you showed up to this show is why it was the adventure of a lifetime for me.” 

Swift walked into the evening already a movie star—and no, not because of her role as Bombalurina in 2019’s Cats. Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour pre-sold more than $100 million in tickets a week before its premiere. Some film analysts are predicting that it could cross the $150 million mark during its opening weekend. The movie has already passed Justin Bieber: Never Say Never as the highest-grossing concert film debut—and it isn’t even out yet. Not one to do things the standard way, Swift struck a deal directly with AMC Entertainment to release The Eras Tour. Entertainment newsletter Puck reports that she’ll keep more than 50% of the revenue from ticket sales.

She’ll soon compete with another pop icon in theaters: Beyoncé has announced that a film about her recently concluded global tour will bow on December 1. But a photo of the pair posing together before The Eras Tour premiere should help squash talk that this fight is anything but friendly. Swift later posted a video to her Instagram showing Queen Bey playfully throwing popcorn and wrote, “She’s been a guiding light throughout my career and the fact that she showed up tonight was like an actual fairytale.” 

A surprise-ish premiere wasn’t the only trick Swift had up her sleeve this week. Minutes before arriving at The Grove, she announced via social media that the movie would actually come to theaters one day early, on October 12. “Look what you genuinely made me do,” she cheekily captioned her Instagram post, nodding to a song off her Reputation album.

AMCs around the country are preparing for a crush of activity in the coming days and weeks, a chance to revive the energy of a Barbenheimer summer with a similarly pink, glitter-loving crowd. The AMC at The Grove is devoting multiple theaters for round-the-clock weekend showings.

And The Grove itself plans to continue to have a little fun with its role in Swift’s blockbuster fall. The Taylor Swift fountain show will continue in the evenings, and they’ve teamed with Little Words Project to open up a friendship bracelet store. One of the mall’s bars will even be slinging Taylor Swift-inspired drinks. “Let’s all enjoy her great music and the camaraderie that she brings,” Caruso says. “Her fans are happy, fun fans. We love having them here.”

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