May 23, 2024

Jennifer Gamez and Kellie Marsalli were strangers until a chance encounter at AMC Lincoln Square 13 on Friday night. As one ascended and the other descended the escalator at one of New York City’s busiest movie theaters, they swapped friendship bracelets to commemorate being among the first to watch the “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” concert film.

“I was admiring her bracelet selection and her cat shirt,” Gamez, 33, says. Marsalli, 53, wearing a “Lover”-inspired pink suit over a feline-printed top, adds, “That’s the whole thing with Taylor Swift. She brings all ages, all backgrounds, all different personalities together.”

There’s no missing the Swifties in the room, likely decked out in pastels, glitter and concert tees. Inside the lobby, the energy was palpable as new friends took pictures of each other and old pals posed for selfies with posters. Thanks to Swift’s global appeal, her concert film — which documents the pop star’s three-hour, record-breaking stadium tour — has become the movie event of the fall. With $100 million in worldwide advance ticket sales, “Eras Tour” is expected to land one of the biggest opening weekends of the year. It’s arriving in theaters as not just a blockbuster but a full-fledged cultural event.

“This is something we haven’t had in quite a long time,” says Jeffry Ramirez, an AMC Theatres staffer who was scanning tickets on Friday evening. “We had Barbenheimer,” he adds, referring to this summer’s popular double feature of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” But this is a different type of excitement. Everyone has been dancing in the theaters and singing songs in line.”

Even the employees are joining in the fun. “One guest gave me a friendship bracelet, which is cool as a male who doesn’t know too much about Swift,” says Ramirez, who fielded at least a dozen questions in the span of eight minutes about the availability of branded popcorn buckets. “We have a full house all night long.”

Several moviegoers chose AMC’s Upper West Side location because it features one of the biggest Imax screens in the country. As fate would have it, the name of the theater comes as numerically loaded as anything in Swift’s world. “I hate to say, but Lincoln Square 13,” Marsalli says, emphasizing the pop star’s lucky number. Another funny coincidence: the Imax auditorium is (you guessed it) theater 13.

Fans are treating the theatrical experience like another (less expensive) stop on her sold-out tour. And instead of strictly enforcing no-talking or-texting rules, exhibitors — at Swift’s suggestion — are encouraging the audience to sing and dance and even take videos of all the fun inside the theater.

“I’m so excited that I’m sweating,” says Kodi Haney, 27. “I love her so much, it’s kind of scary.” He’s already seen the concert twice, but he and his friend, Alexis Neuville, 27, are eager to relive the experience with a better view. “My seats were really far up, so I didn’t get to see as much of her facial expressions,” Neuville says.

And she looks forward to remembering the show this time. “You kind of black out [from excitement] when you’re at the tour,” she says. “So it’s cool to see it again in a seat with popcorn.”

Likitha Yerraguntla, 21, felt strongly about watching the film on its first day of release despite attending multiple nights of “Eras Tour” at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium. “I didn’t want to see spoilers,” she says. “She’s putting it out on Friday the 13th for a reason. So I’m going to go Friday the 13th.”

For some moviegoers, opening night is the first of many planned trips to see “Eras Tour” on the big screen. Jared Bass, 25, bought tickets to three showtimes (on Thursday, Friday and Saturday) this weekend alone. He admits that although nothing compares to experiencing the actual concert, he was pleasantly surprised at the ambiance in the theater. “It was full of joy and happiness,” says Bass, who brought 83 homemade friendship bracelets to trade with other Swifties.

“Is it nice to watch the movie? Yeah,” he says. “But the atmosphere is what brings me back.”

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