‘Barbie’ Takes Box Office Crown as ‘Oppenheimer’ Soars in Historic Weekend

“Barbenheimer” not only worked, it spun box office gold. The social media-fuelled merger of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” lured moviegoers back to theaters in record numbers this weekenda, vastly exceeding projections and giving a glimmer of hope to the lagging exhibition business, amid the bleak backdrop of the strikes.

Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” took first place with a whopping $155 million ticket sales in North American theaters from 4,243 locations, surpassing “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” (as well as all Marvel movies this year) for the biggest opening of the year and breaking the opening weekend record for a film directed by a woman. “Universal’s Oppenheimer” also exceeded expectations, grossing $80.5 million from 3,610 theaters across the US and Canada, marking Nolan’s biggest debut without Batman and one of the best starts ever for an R-rated biographical drama.

It is also the first time that a film opened with more than $100 million. and another movie opened to over $80 million in the same weekend. When it’s all figured out, it will probably become the fourth highest grossing weekend of all time, with over $300 million industry-wide. And all this in a market that is increasingly leaning towards winner-takes-all driven intellectual property.

The “Barbenheimer” phenomenon may have started out as a mild-mannered contest between two aesthetic opposites, but, as many expected, both films benefited in the end. Internationally, “Barbie” won $182 million in 69 territories, powering a global weekend of $337 million. “Oppenheimer” earned $93.7 million from 78 territories, ranking ahead of “Barbie” in India, for a global total of $174.2 million.

The only real casualty was “Mission: Impossible: The Dead Account Part I,” which despite good reviews and a good opening weekend, dropped 64% in the second weekend. Overshadowed by the brilliance of “Barbenheimer” as well as the shock of losing its IMAX screens to “Oppenheimer,” the vehicle of Tom Cruise added $19.5 million, bringing his domestic total to $118.8 million.

“Barbenheimer” is not simply counterprogramming either. But while a certain section of enthusiastic moviegoers agreed, overall the audiences were different.

Women led the historic opening of “Barbie”, representing 65% of the audienceaccording to PostTrak, and 40% of ticket buyers were under the age of 25 for the PG-13 rated film.

“It’s just a happy time in the world. This is history in many ways,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ president of national distribution “I think this marketing campaign is the one that people will be talking about forever.”

Meanwhile, the audience “Oppenheimer” was 62% male and 63% over the age of 25with a somewhat surprising 32% being between the ages of 18 and 24.

Both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” got good critical ratings, with 90% and 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively, and audiences gave both films an A CinemaScore. And social media has been awash with reactions and “takes” all weekend long—good, bad, problematic, and everywhere in between—the kind of organic cinema of events and refreshing debates that no marketing budget can buy.

“The ‘Barbenheimer’ thing was a real boost for both movies,” Goldstein said. “It is a crowning achievement for all of us.”

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“Oppenheimer” had at its disposal the vast majority (80%) of the large-format premium screens. Some 25 theaters across North America boasted 70mm IMAX screenings (Nolan’s preferred format), most of which sold out throughout the weekend, which represented 2% of the total gross. Theaters even rushed to add more to keep up with demand, including showings at 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., which also sold out.

“Nolan’s movies are truly cinematic events,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of national distribution.

The IMAX showings alone accounted for 26% of the domestic gross (or $21.1 million) from just 411 screens and 20% of the global gross, and “Oppenheimer” will have at least a three-week run on those high-demand screens.

“This is an unparalleled phenomenon,” Rich Gelfond, IMAX CEO, said in a statement. “Around the world, we’ve seen sold-out 4:00 am shows and people traveling for hours across borders to see ‘Oppenheimer’ on 70mm IMAX.”

This is the comeback weekend that Hollywood has been dreaming of since the pandemic. There have been great premieres and successes: “Spider-Man: No Way Home”, “Top Gun: Maverick”, “Avatar: The Way of Water” among them, but the fact that two movies succeed at the same time is remarkable.

“It was a truly historic weekend and continues the positive box office momentum of 2023,” said Michael O’Leary, president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners. “People recognized that something special was happening and they wanted to be a part of it.”

And yet, in the background, disaster looms as studies of Hollywood continue to argue with the actors and writers on strike for a fair contract.

“Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” were the last movies on the 2023 schedule to get a massive global press tour. Both were up until the 11th hour, squeezing until the last moment with their movie stars. “Oppenheimer” even moved up its London premiere by an hourknowing that Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and Cillian Murphy would have to leave to symbolically join the pickets when the film began.

With no movie stars to promote their films, studios have begun promoting some fall releases, including Zendaya’s high-profile tennis drama “Challengers.”

But for now, it’s just a positive story that even could continue for the next few weeks.

“There could be a sequel next weekend,” said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst at Comscore. “The FOMO factor will increase due to this monumental event box office focused on the cinema experience.

Estimated ticket sales Friday through Sunday at theaters in the US and Canada, according to Comscore. The final national figures will be released on Monday.

1. “Barbie,” $155 million.

2. “Oppenheimer”, 80.5 million dollars.

3. “Sound of Freedom”, $20.1 million.

4. “Mission: Impossible-Dead Reckoning Part I,” $19.5 million.

5. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate”, $6.7 million.

6. “Insidious: The Red Door,” $6.5 million.

7. “Elementary,” $5.8 million.

8. “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” $2.8 million.

9. “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts”, 1.1 million.

10. “No hard feelings,” $1.1 million.

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