Cillian Murphy in Oppenheimer and Margot Robbie as Barbie
Julien De Rosa | AFP | Getty Images; Stuart C. Wilson | Getty Images
“Barbenheimer” exploded over the weekend, generating an estimated $235.5 million in ticket sales and reinvigorating the domestic box office.
“Barbie” tallied around $155 million during its first three days in theaters, the highest opening of 2023. Its counterpart “Oppenheimer” snared an estimated $80.5 million during its debut. Final numbers for the pair’s debuts will be revealed Monday.
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“I don’t think anyone could have reasonably predicted this kind of confluence between ‘Oppenheimer’ and ‘Barbie,'” said Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice.com. “If you’re going to a theater right now, the communal experience is reminiscent of major Marvel and Star Wars films, but without those franchises remotely involved.”
More than 18.5 million tickets were bought for the combination of Warner Bros.‘ “Barbie” and Universal’s “Oppenheimer,” 12.8 million for “Barbie” and 5.8 million for “Oppenheimer,” according to data from EntTelligence.
“It was a truly historic weekend and continues the positive box office momentum of 2023,” said Michael O’Leary, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners. “More importantly, it proves once again that America loves going to the movies to see great films.”
Both films hold a rating of more than 90% “Fresh” on Rotten Tomatoes and inspired moviegoers to dress head-to-toe in pink or don suits and hats during their screenings.
“People recognized that something special was happening and they wanted to be a part of it,” O’Leary said. “Our partners in the creative community and at the studios gave audiences two uniquely different, smart and original stories that were meant for the big screen and movie lovers responded by gathering friends and family and heading to their local movie houses across the nation.”
With additional ticket sales from Paramount’s newest “Mission Impossible” film, Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” and Angel Studios’ “The Sound of Freedom,” the weekend box office is expected to reach $302 million, the highest of any weekend in 2023, according to data from Comscore.
“The unprecedented performance of these two films, and the boost it gave to the overall movie marketplace, solidified the movie theater as a cultural hub and epicenter of social interaction,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.
“Barbenheimer” weekend is currently set to be the fourth-highest weekend haul of all-time, just below the three-day stretch when Disney’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” arrived in theaters in December 2015 and helped boost the overall weekend haul to $313 million. The second-highest is $314 million from April 2018’s opening weekend of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
Some box office analysts project that Monday’s official weekend numbers could be quite a bit higher than Sunday’s estimates, and push “Barbenheimer” weekend up the charts. However, they won’t come close to the highest-grossing weekend ever, which occurred in April 2019 when “Avengers: Endgame” hit theaters, drumming up $357 million on its own, and leading to a $402 million overall weekend tally.
The success of “Barbenheimer” comes at a time when the domestic box office has faced some hurdles. A slew of adult-aimed blockbusters have underperformed, leading many in the industry to question if consumer tastes have shifted away from Hollywood.
Warner Bros.’ “The Flash” has fizzled, Pixar’s “Elemental” failed to lure in family audiences and even the return of Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones wasn’t enough to pack cinemas.
However, the combination of bombs and blonde bombshells seems to have inspired plenty of moviegoers to leave their couches for the cinema.
“It’s a historic result that showcases the enthusiasm audiences have for a variety of fresh content,” Robbins said. “These films have exquisitely tapped into the cultural zeitgeist. They’ve reignited the summer box office flame, and they’ve proven that studios can be a little more aggressive with counter-programming strategies in the future.”
Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC. NBCUniversal is the distributor of “Oppenheimer” and owns Rotten Tomatoes.