It’s been 470 calendar days since Beyoncé gave her stans an inkling that a Renaissance visual album was coming. In the year following the release of her seventh studio album, the BeyHive relied on their improvisational skills to keep them engaged throughout its nontraditional rollout. They made viral dance challenges to “Cuff It” on TikTok; tried to replicate Bey’s melismatic bridge from “Virgo’s Groove”; and when the came time for everybody to be “on mute” during the “Energy” segment of Renaissance World Tour shows, cities across the world went head-to-head to be the crowning glory of the ballroom.
To tide them over, on Saturday night, the most Grammy Award-winning artist of all time held the world premiere of Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé in Beverly Hills, ahead of its theatrical release on Dec. 1. The concert film/documentary chronicles the tour’s elaborate, all-hands-on-deck production and crucial performances, while glimpses of Beyoncé’s experiences as a mother, professional, and cultural powerhouse are interwoven throughout the 3-hour film.
The film’s official synopsis states that the 56-date tour “created a sanctuary for freedom, and shared joy” not just among attendees, but Beyoncé herself. In Renaissance, Beyoncé gives herself grace, and is refreshingly honest about the trials she’s endured along her journey.
In October, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter put all rumors of a BeyHive versus Swifties feud to rest when she attended the Los Angeles premiere of Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour, an unforgettable moment that Swift admitted was “like an actual fairytale.” But standing in her own eminence, on Nov. 25, Beyoncé came to serve, slay, and unveil the commitment that it took to bring her 16-track masterpiece to life.
The theatrical event marked Beyoncé’s global launch of her film on the big screen. The artist’s past full-length features, like her 2016 musical film Lemonade and the Afrocentric Black Is King, were limited to HBO or streaming services. In the 1,010-seat Samuel Goldwyn Theater, nestled inside the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the spectacle of Renaissance took center stage.
Like any Parkwood Entertainment production, the premiere location was kept confidential until the day-of. Guests put on their luxe gowns and bedazzled sets (invitations called for cocktail attire) and attendants spritzed the floral fragrance of Bey’s Cé Noir parfum on those hitting the chrome carpet.
Upon entry, my eyes met the smoldering gaze of Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson, who, ever the matriarch, kept close to her eldest grandson, Julez, while the two posed for photographers outside the theater. In the foyer, hundreds gathered around a glass-enclosed Reneigh, the BeyHive’s nickname for her iconic mirrorball horse — like former fashion stylist Law Roach, who tried his best to capture the perfect selfie. Upstairs, musical sister duo Chloé and Halle Bailey, the latter sporting matching black outfits with her rapper/YouTuber boyfriend DDG, excitedly nabbed complimentary refreshments in souvenir Renaissance-themed reusable popcorn buckets and cups. To prevent any leaks, all attendees’ cell phones were locked in Yondr pouches prior to the screening.
More surprises came between theater seats in the form of metallic gift bags filled with sample-size Cé Noir, a mini poster, and invitation cards reminding guests just where they were on Nov. 25. As attendees still poured into the theater well past the scheduled 7 p.m. showtime, entertainers mingled in the aisles. Beyoncé’s father, Mathew Knowles, and his wife Gena Avery Knowles chatted with film mogul Tyler Perry and actress Holly Robinson Peete. Snowfall star Damson Idris strutted to the back of the theater as if he was still in character as Franklin Saint.
Additional arrivals included former Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, LeToya Luckett, and LaTavia Roberson, Janelle Monáe, Victoria Monét, Normani, Snoh Aalegra, Coco Jones, Andra Day, Tia Mowry, Issa Rae, Gabrielle Union, Ava DuVernay, Ts Madison, Les Twins, and more. The lights dimmed as the ever-elusive Beyoncé and Jay-Z snuck into the theater, and the film suddenly began.
After an introductory montage of fan pandemonium during the Renaissance World Tour, the crowded theater went abuzz when Beyoncé sang her 2003 ballad “Dangerously in Love 2.” The singer is shown holding back tears while extending gratitude to the fans who’ve held her down for nearly three decades. But Renaissance wasn’t just a love letter to the BeyHive; it was also a salute to the singer’s tour crew, who she deemed the “bones and veins of the machinery.”
It took sacrifice for Beyoncé to deliver the Ranissance World Tour, and in one scene, the artist confesses that she hasn’t had any time off in 44 consecutive days. Another sequence in the film emphasizes Beyoncé’s fatigue, showing her blank expression in reverse while going over tour production cues. “I’m human, I’m not a machine,” she says.
Despite her lack of rest, the singer shows up for her audience, offering delicious and breathtaking visuals while giving queer house music and ballroom icons like Kevin JZ Prodigy and Kevin Aviance their flowers after years of feeling counted out. The singer’s eldest daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, is seen watching her mother intently before joining her onstage. There’s hometown pride when Beyoncé returns to Houston for a “healing” Destiny’s Child reunion and a “Savage (Remix)” twerk-a-thon with Megan Thee Stallion. She even lent a helping hand to Kendrick Lamar, whose audio went out during Beyoncé’s Sept. 4 “BeyDay” show in L.A.
The mother of three also gets candid about the physical and mental struggles that nearly jeopardized her career, like having surgery on her knee one month before tour rehearsals. But what’s kept the singer going is knowing that her “pain and sacrifice is opening the door for the next,” as she recognizes “heroes” like Diana Ross and the late Tina Turner.
Amid solemn and honorable bits for Bey’s deceased Uncle Johnny, she leaves plenty of room for joy, harnessing the BeyHive’s virality by turning performances into full-on singalongs. And yes, when the film reached “Energy,” the entire theater went “on mute.” More than anything, Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé exhibits a singular performer’s most fascinating chapter of escapism. This is what we wanted to see all along.