The Barbenheimer Phenomenon Was Real, and Historic
An iconic piece of Americana and the philosophical-minded father of the atom bomb have got to be the two most unlikely partners in cinematic history of all time, but here we are—and it’s glorious. Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer—now collectively known as Barbenheimer—joined together to bring in the fourth-largest weekend at the box office in movie history.
Gerwig made history with the largest opening weekend for a female director ever, as Barbie pulled in a year’s best $155 million, and Nolan’s Oppenheimer made a very impressive $80.5 million. What makes the Barbenheimer feat even more delightful is how much of an outlier it is for two very different, very original films to fuel such a massive weekend. The top three collective weekend hauls ahead of Barbenheimer were all led by massive franchises, either debuts or sequels—Avengers: Endgame turned an April weekend in 2019 into the all-time top-grosser at $402 million collectively, the premiere of Avengers: Infinity War in April the previous year led to $314 million collectively, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens generated a $313 million collective weekend in December 2015.
Barbie‘s weekend was truly staggering as the film did extremely well both domestically and overseas. It launched itself into its premiere weekend on a pink tide of critical raves, that insanely clever marketing campaign, and the superbright wattage of its cast, led by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Among the records Barbie broke are the biggest opening for Robbie and Gosling, the biggest three-day opening for a movie based on a toy (besting Transformers: Dark of the Moon‘s $115.9 million), and the biggest opening weekend for a Warner Bros. movie that wasn’t a DC Studios film or a sequel. Simply put, wow.
Meanwhile, Nolan’s Oppenheimer had a wonderful opening weekend, too. A three-hour, R-rated biopic about J. Robert Oppenheimer doesn’t sound like the stuff of box office gold, but such is the interest that Nolan’s work always generates that it was precisely that. Led by a phenomenal performance by Cillian Murphy in the title role, Oppenheimer is now Nolan’s third biggest domestic debut, which is saying a lot considering it lands behind only The Dark Knight Rises ($160.9 million) and The Dark Knight ($158.4 million). Oppenheimer is also the third-biggest opening for a biographical film in North America, only behind American Sniper ($89.3 million) and The Passion of the Christ ($83.8 million).
Box office aside, both Barbie and Oppenheimer come from two of our most talented filmmakers, and their critical reviews and CinemaScores reflect that. Both are enjoying crucial grade A CinemaScores, with Barbie at 90 percent and Oppenheimer at 93 percent. When talented filmmakers tackle films they’re passionate about it, history can be made.
For more on Barbie and Oppenheimer, check out these stories:
Featured image: L-r: Caption: MARGOT ROBBIE as Barbie in Warner Bros. Pictures’ “BARBIE,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Photo Credit: Courtesy Warner Bros. Pictures; “Oppenheimer” movie poster. Courtesy Universal Pictures.