This year’s most eagerly anticipated movies ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ – two cinematic opposites brought together by cross-marketing luck – landed in theaters with a bang and are expected to earn $200 million this weekend.
Many movie fans are flocking to theaters to make it a double feature – and on Friday it was already clear that the internet phenomenon dubbed ‘Barbenheimer’ had become the movie event of the year.
The National Association of Theater Owners says that about 200,000 moviegoers in North America book same-day tickets for every movie.
Warner Bros. said Friday that Barbie took in $22.5 million in Thursday previews, the best such number of the year and a clear sign that the film will easily surpass $100 million over the weekend.
Universal Pictures’ Oppenheimer scored $10.5 million in preshow ticket sales, and looks set to open between $40 million and $60 million.
Thousands of moviegoers flocked to theaters to see both Barbie and Oppenheimer — which together could gross $200 million in opening weekend.
Barbie took in $22.5 million in Thursday previews while Universal Pictures’ Oppenheimer earned $10.5 million in pre-show ticket sales. Pictured: Margot Robbie (left) in a scene from Barbie and Cillian Murphy in a scene from Oppenheimer
From left, Gabrielle Roitman, Kayla Seifing, Maddie Hiller and Casey Mayer take a selfie in front of an Oppenheimer movie poster before attending an advance screening of Barbie.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like it,” said theater association president Michael O’Leary, who likened the event to a sold-out Taylor Swift concert tour.
‘But while it’s an amazing special event that commands cultural attention, it’s not as accessible to everyone as these two movies. It’s an event open to everyone, wherever they live.’
Barbie is expected to capture upwards of $140 million in its first three days in theaters, while Oppenheimer will likely snare at least $50 million, with some box office analysts expecting it to exceed $60 million.
‘I think it’s the opposite,’ said Lucy Ruiz, 17, as she and a friend entered the first showing of ‘Barbie’ at the Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, New York, on Thursday. ‘If you want to do two on the same day, it’s like two borrowings of the same coin.’
As for Ruiz, the second half of his ‘Barbenheimer’ will have to wait. ‘Maybe next week,’ he said, looking at Oppenheimer.
For a film industry that has yet to fully recover its pre-pandemic footing, it’s a welcome summer boost where many of the top releases have fallen shy of expectations.
Overall sales for the year are running about 20 percent below 2019’s box-office pace.
Ryan Gosling, left, and Margot Robbie pose for photographers after arriving at the film premiere of Barbie on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, in London
Barbie (left) is expected to capture upwards of $140 million in its first three days in theaters while Oppenheimer (right) will likely rake in at least $50 million, with some box office analysts expecting it to exceed $60 million.
For some moviegoers, ‘Barbenheimer’ is their first blush at the once common habit of catching double features.
Jack Robinson, 17, had tickets to see both movies with friends on Saturday. She planned to have a suit for Oppenheimer before going pink for ‘Barbie’.
‘Before Corona I used to go to a lot of movies with my family and friends. I’m very excited,’ said Robinson. ‘It will be interesting not to leave the cinema. Usually, it’s like go to the bathroom and go home.’
In recent years, theater owners have often lamented the lack of enough films in the marketplace as streaming has made inroads and studios have increasingly focused their release schedules on fewer but bigger films. But ‘Barbenheimer’ points to the potential rewards when a diverse film collectively rides the box-office tide.
‘Barbenheimer’ momentarily topped last week’s film, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One – which, despite Tom Cruise’s lobbying, is losing IMAX screens to Oppenheimer this weekend. But having three big movies near each other, O’Leary said, ‘has a good problem.’
‘It’s certainly preferable to the alternative,’ O’Leary said.
Parrot Analytics found that global demand for each of the film’s casts — all of whom are openly enthusiastic about watching their rival films — grew at virtually the same rate between late April and mid-July.
The audience demographics are almost the opposite of each other. Barbie appeals mostly to women and younger audiences, while ‘Oppenheimer’ is most popular with men and the over-30s, Parrott found.
Yet in a very divided America, ‘Barbenheimer’ is the great pop-culture unifier of 2023. It has the opposite consistency.
This combination of images shows promotional art for Barbie, Baum, and Oppenheimer
The Oppenheimer and Barbie movie commercials will be shown at AMC Theaters at The Grove on Thursday, July 20, 2023 in Los Angeles.
“I’m doing Barbie first and then Oppenheimer because I know ‘Oppenheimer’ is going to be something I have to digest,” says Jill Kupnick of Brooklyn.
Movie theaters are catering to the ‘Barbenheimer’ phenomenon with promotions on double feature tickets and lots of Barbie-themed candy and cocktails. But most are programming their own ‘Barbenheimer’ days. Freelance writer Kelsey Wickman calls it ‘the closest thing to celebrating school spirit week as an adult’.
“I have a friend who picks out clothes and knows how to style her hair,” says Krupnik. ‘There is a level of drama involved that you rarely see in mainstream cinema. It’s more common than Marvel movies or anything like that in the fantasy genre.’
Barbie and Oppenheimer are so intertwined that it is possible – despite their vast differences – to be mistaken for each other.
At the Yonkers Alamo Drafthouse, a sharply dressed man wearing a pink shirt under a blazer asked about the showtime for ‘Oppenheimer.’
A clerk answered politely and then looked at the man’s outfit and asked, ‘Did you ask for time for Barbie too?’