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‘Barbenheimer’ sweeps box office

By AFP - Jul 25,2023 - Last updated at Jul 25,2023

Cillian Murphy in ‘Oppenheimer’ (Universal) and Margot Robbie in ‘Barbie’ (Warner Bros) debuted on the same weekend (Photos courtesy of Universal and Warner Bros)

LOS ANGELES — Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” conquered North American box offices in its debut weekend as it raked in a stunning $155 million, while the other half of the movie-going event of the summer, the dark biopic “Oppenheimer”, also scored big with $80.5 million in revenue, industry Estimates reported on Sunday.

Legions of pink-clad moviegoers swarmed theatres to give “Barbie” the biggest opening weekend of any film this year — and the biggest ever for a female director — said industry monitor Exhibitor Relations. 

The much-anticipated “Barbenheimer” cinematic weekend, during which “Barbie” and Universal’s “Oppenheimer” were both released, spurred hundreds of thousands of people to take in both flicks, organising their own double features.

The coincidental same-day release of the two starkly different but highly anticipated films — one following an iconic doll ready to paint the world pink and the other about the scientist who helped invent the atomic bomb — created a bottom-up pop-culture phenomenon that transcended the individual marketing for either.

Together, they also provided a shot in the arm for theatres hit hard by the pandemic as well as the rise of streaming services.

“The subtext of the joke of ‘Barbenheimer’ is that these couldn’t be two more different movies,” David A. Gross, of Franchise Entertainment Research, told AFP.

At the same time, he added, “The movie industry has a very healthy record of accommodating two big pictures. Moviegoers go when there are hot movies.”

In a Sunday note, Gross wrote that the opening for “Barbie” was “record-shattering”.

“No comedic film of any kind has opened higher than $85.9m over a 3-day weekend,” he wrote.

“Barbie has become what we call a zeitgeist movie. It seems to be hitting a chord,” he told AFP.

“Oppenheimer,” for its part, saw a “superb opening”, Gross wrote. 


DIY double features


According to industry estimates, some 200,000 people were thought to have purchased tickets to both films on the same day.

Emma McNealy, 35, was one of them.

“I had heard online people were planning to do it and it sounded funny to me,” the account manager told AFP. “At first I wasn’t planning to because I didn’t feel like anyone else would want to spend the whole day doing this for the bit, but luckily a friend was in.”

While both films fuelled interest in the other, it was “Barbie” that pulled her in to try the double feature.

“I am sure I would have watched [‘Oppenheimer’] eventually, but not on opening weekend,” she said. “I think a lot of women like that a Barbie is getting more layers in this telling, it’s not just candy-coated fluff.”

Millions more were likely to catch both films on separate days.

“This was a phenomenal experience for people who love movies on the big screen,” president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners Michael O’Leary said in a statement Sunday. 

“It was a truly historic weekend.”

The “Barbenheimer” films together left a massive gulf between the weekend’s top two box office spots and the number three slot, occupied by “Sound of Freedom”.

The controversial action thriller from Santa Fe Films and Angel Studios, which critics say plays into QAnon conspiracy theories, brought in $20.14 million.

Fourth and fifth place saw the sort of franchise sequels that have come to dominate box office recently. 

Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” the latest in the long-running series starring Tom Cruise, brought in $19.5 million.

“Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny”, from Disney, brought in $6.7 million. This “Indy” episode, likely the last, again stars Harrison Ford as a whip-cracking archaeologist.

Rounding out the top 10 were “Insidious: The Red Door” ($6.5 million), “Elemental” ($5.8 million), “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” ($2.8 million), “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” ($1.12 million) and “No Hard Feelings” ($1.07 million).


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