Barbie, the live-action fantasy comedy directed by Greta Gerwig and starring Margot Robbie as the iconic doll, has shattered all expectations and set new records at the box office. The film, which was released by Warner Bros. and Mattel on September 15, 2023, opened to a staggering $155 million in North America, making it the biggest debut of the year and the third-biggest opening of all time, behind only Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War. The film also dominated the international market, adding $182 million for a stunning global tally of $337 million.
The film, which cost $145 million to produce, has received rave reviews from critics and audiences alike, earning a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an A CinemaScore. The film follows Barbie as she embarks on a colorful adventure in the real world after being expelled from her perfect utopia of Pastel Pink. Along the way, she meets new friends, discovers her true self, and saves the world from a sinister plot. The film features a star-studded cast that includes Timothée Chalamet, Saoirse Ronan, Florence Pugh, Emma Watson, Zendaya, and Meryl Streep.
The film’s success has been attributed to its clever marketing campaign, which reportedly caused a shortage of the color pink, as well as its appeal to a wide range of demographics, especially women and families. The film has also sparked a cultural phenomenon known as “Barbenheimer”, which refers to the simultaneous release of Christopher Nolan’s historical drama Oppenheimer on the same day.
The Atomic Surprise
Oppenheimer, the biopic of the American physicist who led the development of the atomic bomb during World War II, has also exceeded expectations and delivered a remarkable performance at the box office. The film, which was released by Universal Pictures on September 15, 2023, earned $80.5 million in North America in its opening weekend, making it the biggest debut for an R-rated film in September and the second-biggest opening for a biopic of all time, behind only Bohemian Rhapsody. The film also impressed overseas, grossing $75 million for a worldwide total of $155.5 million.
The film, which cost $100 million to make, has received critical acclaim for its meticulous recreation of the historical events and its exploration of the moral dilemmas faced by Oppenheimer and his team. The film stars Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer, Robert Downey Jr. as General Leslie Groves, Emily Blunt as Kitty Oppenheimer, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Albert Einstein. The film has a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an A- CinemaScore.
The film’s success has been attributed to Nolan’s loyal fanbase, who have been eagerly awaiting his return to the big screen after his last film Tenet was affected by the pandemic in 2020. The film has also benefited from the positive word-of-mouth and the curiosity generated by “Barbenheimer”, which has encouraged many moviegoers to watch both films in a double feature.
The Box Office Bonanza
The combined power of Barbie and Oppenheimer has resulted in one of the biggest box office weekends in history, with a total gross of $235.8 million in North America and $494.5 million worldwide. This marks the fourth-biggest overall weekend of all time, behind only those led by Avengers: Endgame , Avengers: Infinity War , and Star Wars: The Force Awakens . It also marks the biggest weekend of the pandemic era, surpassing the previous record set by Black Widow and F9 in July 2021.
The unprecedented success of both films has been hailed as a sign of recovery for the movie industry, which has been struggling to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic, such as theater closures, capacity restrictions, streaming competition, and consumer hesitancy. The strong performance of both films has also demonstrated the enduring appeal of original stories that are meant for the big screen.
“Studios gave audiences two uniquely different, smart and original stories that were meant for the big screen,” says 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.”