The Barbenheimer effect: How long will Barbie and Oppenheimer rule the box office?

Los Angeles, California - Barbie and Oppenheimer are ruling the box office after a record opening weekend, but how long will the reign of these movies last?

With many fans opting for double-features, Barbie and Oppenheimer dominated the box office with a record-breaking opening weekend.
With many fans opting for double-features, Barbie and Oppenheimer dominated the box office with a record-breaking opening weekend.  © Collage: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Over the weekend, movie theaters across the country were met with a flood of customers who packed into a number of sold-out showings.

But it wasn't the latest Marvel movie that sparked the frenzy. Instead, it was the unlikely tag team of a toy-inspired comedy and an R-rated historical drama.

Rather than sparking a divisive competition, many moviegoers opted for a double-feature. This practice likely boosted the performance of Oppenheimer significantly, as the three-hour heavy biopic doesn't exactly have the widespread appeal that the PG-13 pink-tinged comedy does.

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While Barbie reigned supreme in profits, the turnout for Christopher Nolan's far-darker flick is incredibly impressive in its own right. And the popularity of both films doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.

As fans have found, showings of Oppenheimer in IMAX 70MM in many major cities are nearly sold out for another few weeks, while tickets for both movies in all theaters remain scarce throughout the work week into next month.

Competing releases in the coming weeks — including Haunted Mansion and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem — are not likely to bring in as impressive numbers, so Barbie and Oppenheimer just may be able to carry their momentum for a while longer.

Though some feared the Covid-19 pandemic and the rise of streaming could deal a fatal blow to the moviegoing tradition, the "Barbenheimer" craze is proving that it's more alive than ever.

Both Barbie and Oppenheimer surpassed expectations with their box office debuts, potentially signaling a new trend for the movie world.
Both Barbie and Oppenheimer surpassed expectations with their box office debuts, potentially signaling a new trend for the movie world.  © collage: IMAGO / Picturelux

In the age of social media, the most powerful promotional tool just may be FOMO.

Rocking themed outfits to movie theaters as elaborate as for The Eras Tour, seemingly everyone wanted in on Barbenheimer. And if you somehow missed one (or both), the constant chatter is certainly enough to make even the most infrequent moviegoer make the trek to see it.

While streaming is praised for its convenience, watching Barbie or Oppenheimer at home doesn't exactly hit the same as a sold-out screening filled with enthusiastic viewers.

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The unexpected dominance of Barbenheimer also comes in an age of growing superhero fatigue, suggesting that movie fans may be growing tired of the large franchises and recycled stories that have ruled the box office.

Marvel's most recent films, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, earned $104 million and $118 billion at the domestic box office during their opening weekends, respectively.

Pooled together, Barbenheimer scored a $235 million opening weekend, with Barbie shattering records for a female-directed movie opening with $162 million.

Coming toe-to-toe with only the most-anticipated Marvel and Star Wars releases, the Barbie-Oppenheimer craze may prove that franchises are losing their pull in the era of rampant Disney+ spin-offs and theatrical sequels. And that the Barbenheimer effect is here to stay.

Cover photo: Collage: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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