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Barbie Beats Oppenheimer to Break the Weekend Box Office 

If you’re internet-savvy, the chances that you’ve not heard of the word “Barbenheimer” is likely to be zero. It is a blend of the titles of two blockbuster films with simultaneous theatrical release dates, Barbie and Oppenheimer. The last few weeks has been filled with a surge of internet buzz around the two movies which were released on July 21, 2023 in the United Kingdom, United States, and several other countries. 

Barbie is the first live-action production of the animated classic children’s movie. Margot Robbie stars as the titular character alongside an ensemble cast of Ryan Gosling, America Ferrera, Issa Rae, Will Ferrell, Kate McKinnon, and Rhea Perlman. The Greta Gerwig-directed movie was promoted with ample marketing efforts in the months leading up to its release. Mattel entered into partnerships with brands including Airbnb, Gap, XBox, Bloomingdale’s to promote the movie. Warner Bros tweeted the first ever Barbie poster in 2022. 

On the other hand, Oppenheimer is a biological thriller film written and directed by 5-time Academy Award nominee, Christopher Nolan. Universal Pictures won a bidding war over Sony, Paramount, and Apple Studios to produce the trending movie after The Dark Knight trilogy filmmaker developed a strained relationship with Warner Bros. 

Peaky Blinders lead actor Cilian Murphy stars J. Robert Oppenheimer, the titular character who was a physicist crucial in developing the first atomic bomb. The movie also has an ensemble cast of Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Josh Hartnett, Casey Affleck, Rami Malek, Florence Pugh, and Kenneth Branagh. 

What is the Fuss About?

The two movies explore different themes. While Barbie is a feminist-themed fantasy film, Oppenheimer is a tensely grin thriller. But it’s interesting to note that they share a few similarities. They are both written and directed by Academy Award nominees. Barbie is a journey into Stereotypical Barbie’s (Margot Robbie) adventure in and out of Barbieland, her ambitions, regrets, and fight for a better future. Oppenheimer shares a similar approach. Nolan explores the hero’s hopes, ambitions, and regrets for creating a weapon of mass destruction beyond his control. 

The dual rendering of the two blockbusters at cinemas got the highest gross opening in the UK since 2019, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced the world to sit at home. 

A cinema chain Vue International recorded over 500,000 customers on the weekend alone. The chief executive officer Tim Richards said “We knew it was going to be a big weekend based on the advanced bookings, which were also the biggest since the pandemic.” Richards further confirmed that almost 20% of people who bought a ticket for Oppenheimer also did so for Barbie. 

Barbie was projected to gross between $90-$120 million in its opening weekend, while Oppenheimer was projected to average $45-50 million in their opening weekends. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that both films exceeded box office expectations considering the massive wave of influence the Barbenheimer brand has wielded in the last few months.

What Did They Make?

Barbie and Oppenheimer had a weekend debut of £29.4 million ($37.6 million) in the UK and Ireland combined. Barbie did £18.5 million ($23.8 million) while Oppenheimer grossed £10.8 million ($13.8 million). 

In the United States and Canada, the movies grossed more than $10 million each in their Thursday preview. Barbie did $22.3 million and Oppenheimer grossed $10.5 million, which has never happened for two previews of movies released in the same weekend. This led to the increase of the weekend projections to $160 million and $77 million respectively. By the end of the weekend, Barbie grossed $162 million and Oppenheimer did $82 million in the US and Canada alone. 

Barbie and Oppenheimer grossed a combined amount of $511 million dollars worldwide over the weekend. They did $337 million and $174 million respectively, with the pink-themed film grossing almost double of the biopic’s revenue. Barbie marked Greta Gerwig’s highest grossing opening weekend in the US since her movie Little Woman did $16.8 million. Oppenheimer is Nolan’s third highest grossing worldwide opening weekend ever. His movie The Dark Knight Rises did $249 million while The Dark Knight came behind with $198 million. 

Surprisingly, the two blockbusters are not considered rivals but complimentary movies. Reports show that Oppenheimer had extra ticket sales in its opening weekend because Barbie tickets sold out fast in cinemas across the world. In the US, it is estimated that $4.98 million of Oppenheimer’s $82.4 million box office sales came from Barbie remnants. 

In conclusion, it is safe to say the juxtaposition of the films created the box office magic we see today, otherwise known as the Barbenheimer phenomenon. While it remains to be seen that the movies continue to shatter box office expectations, we urge you to check them out to determine if the hype is well worth it.

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