The movie business is alive and thriving, as demonstrated by the recent box office success of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.” These two films shattered pre-release expectations and collectively raked in an astonishing $235.5 million in the United States and Canada. But beyond just monetary triumphs, their victories send a clear message to Hollywood: to dominate the culture, filmmakers must offer something fresh and innovative, steering away from the worn-out sequels and rehashed franchises.
Richard L. Gelfond, the CEO of IMAX, praised the success of these original stories, stating, “Original storytelling executed in the right way has broken out in a really remarkable way.” The fact that these movies were not just rehashed sequels but truly unique narratives caught the attention of moviegoers and contributed significantly to their soaring popularity.
The film industry has finally overcome the shadows cast by the pandemic, as North American multiplexes witnessed their most substantial crowds since the release of “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019. “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” played a crucial role in this resurgence, amassing a total of approximately $302 million in weekend ticket sales. Joining them were films like “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” and “Sound of Freedom,” which added to the overall box office success.
“Barbie,” a feminist manifesto wrapped in hot pink bubble gum, dazzled audiences and earned a remarkable $155 million in domestic ticket sales. Overseas, the PG-13 comedy added an additional $182 million to its impressive revenue. Warner Bros., the studio behind “Barbie,” invested $145 million in the production, excluding significant marketing expenses.
Experts in the field, relying on complex formulas to forecast ticket sales, had initially predicted a more modest $110 million for “Barbie.” Warner Bros., erring on the side of caution, expected an even lower $75 million. However, these projections were proven wildly inaccurate, as “Barbie” surged to become Greta Gerwig’s most significant opening yet, solidifying her reputation as one of Hollywood’s standout filmmakers.
“Oppenheimer,” Christopher Nolan’s ambitious three-hour period drama about Robert Oppenheimer, the man known as “the father of the atomic bomb,” also made a substantial impact. The film, produced by Universal Pictures with a budget of over $100 million and a massive marketing campaign, surpassed analysts’ expectations, grossing an estimated $80.5 million domestically and an additional $94 million internationally.
The release of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” as a double feature, dubbed “Barbenheimer,” was a masterstroke. Movie fans were captivated by the striking contrast between the two films, and more than 60,000 people opted for this unique cinematic experience. Notably, “Oppenheimer” drew a predominantly male audience, comprising 62 percent of the total viewership.
Both movies received overwhelming praise from critics, contributing to their widespread appeal. In CinemaScore exit polls, audiences rewarded both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” with an A grade, indicating high levels of satisfaction and positive word-of-mouth promotion.
Besides their monetary triumphs, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” mark a significant milestone for female directors. Greta Gerwig’s film broke records, becoming the highest-grossing opening for a female director, surpassing the previous record held by “Captain Marvel.”