“Barbenheimer” – the elixir that has everyone and their grandmother flooding back to movie theaters – revitalized a sluggish and strike-ridden box office landscape last weekend.
Warner Bros.’ “Barbie,” directed by three-time Oscar nominee Greta Gerwig, shot its way to the top, raking in a whopping $155 million from over 4,000 North American theaters. Universal’s “Oppenheimer” held its own with a solid $80.5 million in revenue, generated in part by ticket sales to IMAX 70mm screenings – director Christopher Nolan’s preferred viewing format. Many of the IMAX showings were held at ungodly hours, but sold out nonetheless.
“The ‘Barbenheimer’ thing was a real boost for both movies,” Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.’ president of domestic distribution, said. “It is a crowning achievement for all of us.”
Indeed, it was one for the record books, marking the first time two films have broken $100 million and $80 million, respectively, on the same weekend, according to Variety.
International figures were similarly impressive, and both films received a resounding thumbs up from critics and audiences alike.
“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 Theatre Owners. “People recognized that something special was happening and they wanted to be a part of it.”
However, while “Barbenheimer” lit up the big screen, dark clouds hung behind the scenes, as Hollywood remained embroiled in a contractual tug-of-war with striking writers and actors. The “Barbie” press tour and London premiere of “Oppenheimer” were both cut short by the SAG-AFTRA strike order on July 13. Studios were left to juggle the reality of film promotions without big-name stars.
But there is a silver lining here: a resurgence in movie-going that could well persist in the coming weeks. The “Barbenheimer” saga might just get a second chapter.