"Barbenheimer" sweeps box offices in "historic weekend," with one clear winner

Los Angeles, California - Have movies – and movie theaters – finally made their post-pandemic return?

The Barbie movie raked in $155 million at US box offices on opening weekend, while runner-up Oppenheimer brought in $80.5 million.
The Barbie movie raked in $155 million at US box offices on opening weekend, while runner-up Oppenheimer brought in $80.5 million.  © Collage: JULIEN DE ROSA, Jung Yeon-je / AFP & JUSTIN TALLIS, HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP

With legions of pink-clad moviegoers swarming theaters, Warner Bros.' Barbie conquered North American box offices in its debut weekend, raking in $155 million, Sunday estimates showed – nearly double the cash of its second-place competitor.

The other half of the much-anticipated "Barbenheimer" cinematic weekend – which saw Universal's much darker biopic Oppenheimer released the same day and spurred hundreds of thousands to organize their own double features – brought in its own whopping $80.5 million, according to figures from Exhibitor Relations.

The coincidental same-day release of the two starkly different but highly anticipated films – following an iconic doll ready to paint the world pink and the other about the scientist who helped invent the atomic bomb – created a bottom-up pop-culture phenomenon that transcended the individual marketing for either.

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Taylor Swift Travis Kelce adorably honors Taylor Swift's support of his Super Bowl ring ceremony

Together, they also helped cinemas bring in massive crowds, a shot in the arm for an industry hit hard by the pandemic as well as the rise of streaming services.

"The subtext of the joke of 'Barbenheimer' is that these couldn't be two more different movies," David A. Gross, of Franchise Entertainment Research, told AFP.

At the same time, he added, "The movie industry has a very healthy record of accommodating two big pictures. Moviegoers go when there are hot movies."

In a Sunday note, Gross wrote that the opening for Barbie was "record-shattering."

"No comedic film of any kind has opened higher than $85.9 [million] over a 3-day weekend," he wrote.

"Barbie has become what we call a zeitgeist movie. It seems to be hitting a chord," he told AFP.

Oppenheimer, for its part, saw a "superb opening," Gross wrote in his Sunday note.

Moviegoers swarm theaters to see Barbie and Oppenheimer

Advertisements for the Oppenheimer movie are seen on the Chinese Theater marquee, while the Barbie movie poster is seen above the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on release day in Los Angeles, California, on July 21, 2023.
Advertisements for the Oppenheimer movie are seen on the Chinese Theater marquee, while the Barbie movie poster is seen above the Hollywood Walk of Fame, on release day in Los Angeles, California, on July 21, 2023.  © VALERIE MACON / AFP

According to industry estimates, some 200,000 people were thought to have purchased tickets to both films on the same day.

Emma McNealy (35) was one of them.

"I had heard online people were planning to do it and it sounded funny to me," the account manager told AFP. "At first I wasn't planning to because I didn't feel like anyone else would want to spend the whole day doing this for the bit, but luckily a friend was in."

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Jennifer Lopez Ben Affleck ditches Jennifer Lopez for Jennifer Garner on Father's Day

While both films fueled interest in the other, it was Barbie that pulled her in to try the double feature.

"I am sure I would have watched [Oppenheimer] eventually, but not on opening weekend," she said. "I think a lot of women like that a Barbie is getting more layers in this telling, it's not just candy-coated fluff."

Millions more were likely to catch both films on separate days.

"This was a phenomenal experience for people who love movies on the big screen," president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners Michael O'Leary said in a statement Sunday.

Box offices experience "historic weekend"

A movie theater Box Office is pictured announcing the opening of the Oppenheimer and Barbie movies, in Los Angeles, California.
A movie theater Box Office is pictured announcing the opening of the Oppenheimer and Barbie movies, in Los Angeles, California.  © VALERIE MACON / AFP

The "Barbenheimer" films together left a massive gulf between the weekend's top two box office spots and the number three slot, occupied by Sound of Freedom.

The controversial action thriller from Santa Fe Films and Angel Studios, which critics say plays into QAnon conspiracy theories, brought in $20.14 million.

Fourth and fifth place saw the sort of franchise sequels that have come to dominate box office recently.

Paramount's Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, the latest in the long-running series starring Tom Cruise, brought in $19.5 million.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, from Disney, brought in $6.7 million. This "Indy" episode, likely the last, again stars Harrison Ford as a whip-cracking archeologist.

Rounding out the top 10 were:

  • Insidious: The Red Door ($6.5 million)
  • Elemental ($5.8 million)
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ($2.8 million)
  • Transformers: Rise of the Beasts ($1.12 million)
  • No Hard Feelings ($1.07 million)

If you're looking to escape the heat in a cool movie theater, there are tons of great choices to see this summer!

Cover photo: Collage: JULIEN DE ROSA, Jung Yeon-je / AFP & JUSTIN TALLIS, HENRY NICHOLLS / AFP

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