‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ set new box office highs

'Barbie' and 'Oppenheimer' set new box office highs

The movie business is alive!

Greta Gerwig’s gender war “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s nuclear war “Oppenheimer” smashed already stratospheric pre-release expectations at the weekend box office by collecting a combined $235.5 million in the United States and Canada, an astonishing total that sent a clear message to Hollywood: If you want to control the culture, you have to offer moviegoers something new — not just the same old threadbare franchise.

IMAX CEO Richard L. “The origin story executed right has come off in a really remarkable way,” said Gelfond, who scored 26 percent of “Oppenheimer” attendance in North America, even as 4 a.m. screenings sold out. “These movies weren’t sequels that looked the same as the last sequel in a long-running franchise. You could say people paid attention.”

Hollywood has finally moved past the pandemic: All told, North American multiplexes were the most crowded since “Avengers: Endgame” arrived in April 2019. “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” propelled the domestic box office to nearly $302 million in total weekend ticket sales, with films such as “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One” and “Sound of Freedom” contributing to the balance.

According to comScore, which compiles box office data, “Barbie,” a feminist manifesto wrapped in hot pink bubble gum, sold an estimated $155 million in tickets at domestic theaters. The PG-13 comedy grossed an additional $182 million overseas. “Barbie” was released by Warner Bros. and cost $145 million to make, not including marketing expenses, which was substantial.

Box office analysts, using complex formulas to forecast ticket sales, expected “Barbie” to collect approximately $110 million in the United States and Canada. Concerned that the film might underperform expectations, as there have been a number of big-budget releases recently, including “Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One”, Warner Bros. made a conservative prediction of $75 million.

It proved to be the biggest debut of Gerwig’s career, cementing her status as one of Hollywood’s younger “name” filmmakers – directors whom mainstream ticket buyers recognize as delivering prodigious work. (Jordan Peele is another, along with more established collaborators like Nolan and JJ Abrams.) Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay for “Barbie” with her partner, Noah Baumbach, previously directed “Little Women” (2019) and “Lady Bird” (2017). She has been nominated for three Oscars.

It was the biggest opening on record for a female director, surpassing “Captain Marvel,” which was co-directed by Anna Boden and had $153.4 million in opening ticket sales in 2019.

“Barbie” became a full-fledged cultural phenomenon, with thousands of moviegoers draping themselves in pink for screenings, doll-related memes flooding social media and marketers attempting (sometimes awkwardly) to gloss over the moment. 65 percent of the audience were women. “For this Pink movie, you would have expected the audience to be about 90 percent female – we got a lot of people,” said Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution for Warner Bros. “It exploded everywhere: big markets, small markets, coast to coast.”

Harrison Hood, 24, arrived at the AMC Kips Bay Theater in Manhattan wearing “Barbie” regalia.Credit…Manasi Srivastava/The New York Times

“Oppenheimer” helped promote “Barbie” and vice versa, their simultaneous releases nicknamed Barbenheimer and film fans were captivated by their wild incongruity. Nolan’s film, which cost Universal Pictures at least $100 million to make, not including a megawatt marketing campaign, is a three-hour period drama about Robert Oppenheimer, known as the “father of the atomic bomb”. AMC Entertainment, the world’s largest theater chain, said more than 60,000 people had bought tickets to see “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” as a double feature.

Universal said the R-rated “Oppenheimer” collected an estimated $80.5 million in the United States and Canada — nearly 60 percent more than what analysts had predicted before release — and an additional $94 million overseas. The household audience was 62 percent male. Tickets will be sold out for weeks to come at some IMAX venues running “Oppenheimer”, especially venues playing the film in 70-millimetre.

“Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” received enthusiastic reviews from critics. Ticket buyers gave each film an A grade in the CinemaScore exit poll.

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