Beyoncé did not walk the red carpet and did not speak at Saturday night’s premiere of “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé,” but she was very much present. Once the lights went down in the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills and the film began, security guards with flashlights led her, her husband Jay-Z and their children plus a small entourage to their seats in the middle of the room.
When the film — which gives her the credits “director, producer & creative direction” — was nearly finished, more than two and three-quarters hours later, Beyoncé and family were led out of the theater.
Saturday’s premiere was a starry event, especially considering it fell on Thanksgiving weekend. All four other members of Destiny’s Child — Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, LeToya Luckett and Latavia Roberson — were in attendance, as were Beyonce’s parents, Tina Knowles and Mathew Knowles. Among those also in attendance were Tyler Perry, Ava DuVernay, Lupita N’yongo, Lizzo, Janelle Monáe, Issa Rae, Chloe Bailey, Halle Bailey, Lena Waithe, Niecy Nash-Betts, Jessica Betts, Jason Reitman, Kris Jenner, Gabrielle Union, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, The-Dream and Laverne Cox.
The film opens in theaters on Friday via a similar arrangement as the recent “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour” film, with the star bypassing Hollywood studios to provide the movie directly to AMC Theatres and other exhibitors. (AMC CEO Adam Aron was there on Saturday.) Swift’s concert film has so far reportedly brought in nearly $250 million worldwide. While Beyoncé made an appearance at the premiere of the “Eras Tour” doc, Swift was performing in South America on Saturday night and so was not able to make a similar gesture of solidarity.
“Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” is more than just a document of the star’s recent blockbuster concert tour, which began in Stockholm in May and wrapped up in Kansas City, Mo., in October. Following the template of her 2019 film “Homecoming: A Film by Beyoncé,” the new film intersperses striking concert footage with startlingly candid (for the notoriously guarded superstar) behind-the-scenes moments that burnish appreciation for the accomplishment of what she puts forth on the stage.
The footage used in the film comes from many different performances of the tour, so that multiple outfits are worn onstage by Beyoncé during the course of a single song. Designed by the likes of Balmain, Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Pucci, Loewe, Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera, Louis Vuitton and Mugler, the tour’s costumes make the film, among other things, an impressive fashion show.
Special guests onstage are Megan Thee Stallion from a Houston show for “Savage,” and Kendrick Lamar for “America Has a Problem” and Diana Ross singing “Happy Birthday” to Beyoncé from the tour’s dates in Los Angeles.
Among the revelations in the “Renaissance” film is that Beyoncé suffered a knee injury that required treatment and extended physical therapy. This had long been suspected among fans but had not been officially confirmed.
But the scene-stealing secret star of the film is Blue Ivy Carter, the 11-year-old daughter of Beyoncé and Jay-Z. In one moment Blue Ivy protectively tells her mother not to worry about the details of a piece of staging and get some rest. She later excitedly defends a song that might be cut from the running order of the show, prompting her mother to lovingly tell her to calm down.
An extended sequence explores how Blue Ivy’s appearance onstage during the show, dancing to the song “My Power,” was originally only supposed to be a one-time thing. But after she saw some negative social media comments after her first appearance, Blue Ivy became determined to improve and continued to appear, her moment onstage becoming a fan favorite. (And the sequence in the film was a favorite on Saturday night as well, with multiple rounds of applause to celebrate Blue Ivy.) Also of note is that Jay-Z’s biggest moment onscreen comes as he tells Blue Ivy how proud he is of her and how exciting it is for him to watch Beyoncé watching Blue Ivy as she performs.
Due to the structure of the film, with relatively complete performances of songs broken up by behind-the-scenes moments, the audience on Saturday night did not seem inclined to dance in the aisles, as has happened at recent screenings of the re-release of the Talking Heads concert film “Stop Making Sense” or at showings of “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.” A section in the front of the Samuel Goldwyn theater where tour crew were seated, including the dancers, often came closest with lots of vigorous in-seat bouncing during some of the show’s up-tempo numbers.
Before the movie began, as Michelle Williams made her way into the theater, a passerby respectfully exclaimed, “Understanding the assignment” at her extravagant black gown. And that in many ways seemed to be an overriding theme of the night, as the audience dressed with a certain futuristic panache and dutifully had their phones stored in locked pouches.
In an Instagram post that first announced the film’s release date following the final show of the tour, Beyoncé quoted the lyric to the “Renaissance” song “All Up In Your Mind” with, “Be careful what you ask for, ’cause I just might comply.” So while this may not exactly be the “visual album” that “Renaissance” fans have been asking for since the album’s release last year, “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé” is both a rousing concert film and a statement of intent by an artist of uncompromising focus.