Early on in Martin Scorsese’s historical drama Killers of the Flower Moon, there’s a quiet moment between Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) and the woman he will eventually marry, Osage heiress Molly (Lily Gladstone). The absorbing way Scorsese stages the drama makes it clear that this relationship will not end well, but the soundtrack is strangely twinkling, as if this were the start of a grand romance. Then the lyrics kicked in:
...karma is my boyfriend
Karma is a god
Karma is the breeze in my hair on the weekend
Karma’s a relaxing thought
Aren’t you envious that for you it’s not?
I was not, in fact, hearing the late, great Robbie Robertson’s score for Killers of the Flower Moon — I was getting sound bleed from Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour playing next door. And I would continue to get that bleed throughout Killers, because while “Karma” marks the end of The Eras Tour’s set list, the film immediately started running again. At 169 minutes long, it’s only 37 minutes shorter than Scorsese’s epic, one of the few currently playing movies that get anywhere near the drama’s 206-minute run time.
Through conversations with friends and colleagues, posts on social media, and collected observations of theater layouts and showtimes, I learned that I am far from alone. The sonic power of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour is bleeding into Martin Scorsese’s meditative masterpiece in a number of multiplexes, creating a miasma of cinematic emotion that neither artist could anticipate.
On the one hand, this is extremely annoying. Part of the reason we go to the theater is because it supposedly allows us to experience movies the way the filmmakers intended, optimally presented in a space that’s free of distractions. Killers of the Flower Moon wrestles with a horrifying true chapter of American history. It’s a quiet and mannered film, perhaps more so than Scorsese fans might expect. Hearing “Blank Space” while the Osage people are getting systematically murdered can feel disrespectful at worst, incongruously funny at best.
And the sonic overlap itself is kind of amusing. Two wildly different reasons to go to the movies are running together, as “Wildest Dreams” is faintly heard over wide-angle shots of the Oklahoma plains. It’s an offline version of the online media environment, where context collapse is normal, and random juxtaposition can yield darkly comedic results.
I didn’t particularly love watching Killers of the Flower Moon this way, but I didn’t hate it, either. It was like a series of intrusive thoughts I learned to tune out while contemplating something I found engaging and worthwhile. There I was, ruminating on the parasitic nature of white entrepreneurs on Native lands, and unbidden, I would think of that one YouTube video where a guy who did a viral Gollum voice covered “I Knew You Were Trouble,” because I heard a few bars of the song leaking in from the theater next to me during a quieter moment. But I also grew up in a noisy home, so I can rely on muscle memory here.
I don’t think anyone should deliberately try to see Killers of the Flower Moon this way. I don’t believe I got any insight from this aural serendipity that I wouldn’t have gotten had I watched each movie in a more soundproof environment. Someone else might! There could be real The Dark Side of the Rainbow/Another Brick in the WALL-E potential here. Maybe when both movies are available digitally, someone will make a “Killers of the Taylor Moon” cut. Accidentally, in theaters, though? Not ideal.
But I don’t think it’s a reason to stay home. Like The Eras Tour, Killers of the Flower Moon deserves to be seen on the biggest screen possible. The minor inconvenience of occasionally overhearing a track from 1989 (or, God forbid, Reputation) is worth the trade-off.
Perhaps theater managers who read this piece — feel free to pass it along if you know any — will take this kind of sound-bleed issue into account, and work to make it less of a normal occurrence. Exhibitors, please take Taylor’s words into account: You need to calm down. You’re being too loud.