Taylor Swift's Impact on the SAG AFTRA Strike

Izellah Wang

Major Hollywood studios should’ve known Taylor was trouble when she walked in. The Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour concert film so far has grossed over $203 million worldwide, cementing it as the highest-grossing concert film of all-time.[1] What’s more, Taylor and her team negotiated directly with AMC for the distribution of the concert film rather than going the traditional route of selling the rights to a film studio middleman.[2] By doing so, Taylor became the sole beneficiary of the film’s profits and will retain around 57% of the box office revenue.[3] This deal was made possible by viewers like you—alongside antitrust concerns back in the 1940s. Although the ruling is no longer in effect, the United States Supreme Court’s 1948 landmark decision in United States v. Paramount Pictures prevented film studios from also owning theaters,[4] a standard that paved the way for Taylor’s negotiations with AMC. By producing the Eras Tour film independently through her in-house production company Taylor Swift Productions and negotiating directly with AMC for both distribution and exhibition rights,[5] the success of Taylor’s strategy may serve as a wake-up call for major studios currently facing the union strikes.

You may be wondering how Taylor—a SAG-AFTRA union member herself—was able to produce and promote the concert film during the ongoing strike. Filmed during the midst of the SAG-AFTRA strike, Taylor obtained the union’s blessing by signing onto an interim agreement.[6] The interim agreement consists of the terms of SAG-AFTRA’s last offer to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP) before the union went on strike in July of 2023.[7] The terms will govern the approved production and attach if and when those productions are licensed during the strike for distribution, including traditional television networks as well as streaming services.[8] While the interim agreement doesn’t preclude a sale to a streamer, it would require the streaming platform to accept the streaming revenue share proposed by SAG-AFTRA if they wish to obtain rights to stream The Eras Tour before the end of the strike. Based on the current performance of Taylor Swift, both in real life and on the silver screen, it wouldn’t be surprising for The Eras Tour to also take first place as one of the most watched pieces of content available on streaming platforms. This commodity may serve as major leverage for the union as negotiations for the streaming rights are off the table until the end of the strikes.[9]

With the Eras Tour projected to generate almost five billion dollars in consumer spending in the United States,[10] Taylor Swift is an economic force that major studios simply cannot ignore. As SAG-AFTRA’s Chief Negotiator and National Executive Director Duncan Crabtree-Ireland explained, “the success of the Eras Tour movie is a testament to the importance of creative talent in not only creating projects but promoting projects . . . I hope that the studios are paying attention because it is an important sign of creative partners who have talent and provide a fair deal where we can get the industry back to work.”[11]


[1] All Time Worldwide Box Office for Concert/Performance Movies, The Numbers, https://www.the-numbers.com/box-office-records/worldwide/all-movies/genres/concert-or-performance [https://perma.cc/VH7L-QJAC] [https://web.archive.org/web/20231104031212/https://www.the-numbers.com/box-office-records/worldwide/all-movies/genres/concert-or-performance] (last visited Oct. 29, 2023).

[2] Chris McPherson, Taylor Swift Has Bad Blood with Studios, Striking Solo Deal with AMC for Concert Film, Collider (Sept. 1, 2023), https://collider.com/taylor-swift-eras-tour-film-studios/ [Failed Permalink] [https://web.archive.org/web/20231104031656/https://collider.com/taylor-swift-eras-tour-film-studios/].

[3] Id.

[4] United States v. Paramount Pictures, Inc., 334 U.S. 131 (1948).

[5] Jason Guerrasio, Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Movie Made It into Theaters by Sidestepping Hollywood Studios, Insider (Sept. 3, 2023), https://www.insider.com/how-taylor-swift-eras-tour-got-into-movie-theaters-amc-2023-9 [https://web.archive.org/save/https://www.insider.com/how-taylor-swift-eras-tour-got-into-movie-theaters-amc-2023-9].

[6] Wesley Stenzel, Taylor Swift's Eras Tour Movie Has SAG-AFTRA's Blessing: Here's What We Know, Ent. Weekly (Oct. 11, 2023), https://ew.com/movies/taylor-swift-eras-tour-movie-sag-aftra-agreement-explained/ [https://perma.cc/NZ57-WKXS] [https://web.archive.org/web/20231104235505/https://ew.com/movies/taylor-swift-eras-tour-movie-sag-aftra-agreement-explained/].

[7] What Is An Interim Agreement?, SAG-AFTRA (Aug. 21, 2023), https://www.sagaftra.org/what-interim-agreement [https://perma.cc/9M5W-BEUN] [https://web.archive.org/web/20231104235902/https://www.sagaftra.org/what-interim-agreement].

[8] Id.

[9] Chris McPherson, Taylor Swift's ‘The Eras Tour’ Won't Stream Until the SAG-AFTRA Strike Ends, Collider (Oct. 26, 2023), https://collider.com/taylor-swift-eras-tour-not-streaming-sag-aftra-strike-over/ [Failed Permalink] [https://web.archive.org/web/20231105000043/https://collider.com/taylor-swift-eras-tour-not-streaming-sag-aftra-strike-over/].

[10] Jeannie Kopstein & Mariah Espada, The Staggering Economic Impact of Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour, Time (Aug. 24, 2023), https://time.com/6307420/taylor-swift-eras-tour-money-economy/ [Failed Permalink] [https://web.archive.org/web/20231105000420/https://time.com/6307420/taylor-swift-eras-tour-money-economy/].

[11] Anthony D'Alessandro & Dominic Patten, “It’s Preposterous!” SAG-AFTRA’s Duncan Crabtree-Ireland On Ted Sarandos’ Claim Of Union Seeking “Levy On Subscribers”; Praises Taylor Swift, Deadline (Oct. 14, 2023), https://deadline.com/2023/10/actors-strike-talks-update-taylor-swift-1235573736/ [https://perma.cc/67HH-LFGS] [https://web.archive.org/web/20231105001357/https://deadline.com/2023/10/actors-strike-talks-update-taylor-swift-1235573736/].