Is Beyoncé’s Renaissance concert film a sign of things to come for movie theaters and the concert experience?

Beyonce performing on stage with two backup singers behind her.
Beyoncé performs onstage during the “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR” at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario. Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood via Getty Images

BeyHive assemble: Beyoncé, Queen B herself, is coming to movie theaters this weekend with “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé.” 

Part concert film and part behind-the-scenes tour documentary, “Renaissance” promises to give fans a glimpse into the famously private superstar’s life during her recent Renaissance tour. It also promises to be a bright spot for movie theaters in the post-Thanksgiving box office doldrums.

But could “Renaissance” be something more: a sign of things to come for the movie theater business and the theatrical experience?

Andrew Mall, an associate professor of music at Northeastern University, says “Renaissance” and “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” another high-profile concert film, show how movie theaters are embracing “festivalization” as a way to get people out of their homes and back into theaters.

In pop culture studies, “festivalization” is the idea of taking the unique qualities of live experiences and applying them in other aspects of our lives.

Headshot of Andrew Mall.
Andrew Mall, associate professor of music at Northeastern University. Photo by Alyssa Stone/Northeastern University

“Most of us watch something on a screen every day, whether it’s while commuting or after dinner or with a partner or roommates –– why should we go out?” Mall says. “Because it’s Beyoncé, because we have friends that we don’t get to see, because we get to dress up and Beyoncé’s encouraged us to dress up, because we want to sing with people because that makes us feel connected to others. Those are all really powerful motivators to get people to get off their couch and away from their laptops and TVs.”

With superhero movies no longer a bulletproof way to entice audiences into movie theaters, concert films could be another big draw for audiences. As “The Eras Tour” proved, there is power in turning the movie theater experience into something closer to an arena show.

Unlike Swift’s concert film, “Renaissance” has something other than music and elaborately choreographed performances to entice audiences.

“To give fans a glimpse of how Beyoncé navigates and negotiates professional and personal obligations, that’s really appealing, precisely because she doesn’t do that regularly,” Mall says. “It’s the appeal of the unknown.”

Beyoncé’s choice to pull back the curtain on the Renaissance tour, and her personal life, means the movie will contain surprises and moments that fans –– even those who saw her on tour –– will have to go to the theater to see. Since she keeps her personal life so private, those rare glimpses become tantalizing pieces of the Beyoncé puzzle for fans of her music and pop culture in general.

However, Mall cautions that concert films are not going to save movie theaters. 

For starters, that assumes they need saving. After the pandemic dealt a blow to movie theaters, audiences used to streaming movies are still coming out to theaters to see the likes of “Barbie,” “Oppenheimer,”Avatar: The Way of Water” and “Top Gun: Maverick.” 

Plus, Mall adds, not every artist is Beyoncé or Taylor Swift, and even if they are, that doesn’t guarantee a Beyoncé fan will be enticed to go back to the movie theater. But that doesn’t mean “Renaissance” and “The Eras Tour” aren’t affecting the movie industry and the still recovering box office.

“Are they going to bring people back to watch movies in theaters after their concert films and documentaries are gone? Probably not,” Mall says. “Are they providing a way for the studios or the theater chains to incorporate new features into their product, into their services? That’s an unqualified yes. Are they providing a needed cash injection? That’s also a yes.”

“The Eras Tour” hit big in the fall with a $92.8 million opening weekend and has totaled $250 million worldwide. That’s a nice boost for the fall box office, but nothing groundbreaking when measured against the world of blockbuster films. More notable than the box office numbers are the fact that both Beyoncé and Swift went around the movie studios to release their film directly with the AMC theater chain.

Mall says it’s something both superstars are able to do because of their stature –– and their experiences navigating the music industry.

“In the music industry, sometimes you get better results or more freedom or better access to your fans by cutting out the middle person, by going around your record label,”  Mall says. “That’s something that major film directors don’t have the luxury of doing. They can’t self-fund a film that costs $100 or $150 million.”

Even though Beyoncé and Swift are anomalies in both the music and movie industries, Mall says the one-two punch of “The Eras Tour” and “Renaissance” is impossible for the movie business to ignore. 

“There are definitely people in one industry sector looking at another and saying, ‘Hey, can we get some of that magic?’” Mall says.

Cody Mello-Klein is a Northeastern Global News reporter. Email him at Follow him on X/Twitter @Proelectioneer.