Barbenheimer is finally upon us, and we’ve potentially got the biggest box office numbers of the year. With the SAG-AFTRA strike already causing several movies to be delayed (as of this writing, only Challengers, White Bird, and Problemista have been confirmed to be pushed back, while other tentpoles like Dune: Part 2 and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom are considering moving to 2024), the fall movie season could dry up very quickly.
It would be a shame to relive constant film & TV delays in a post-COVID world, but this is entirely of the studios’ own doing in not wanting to pay and treat their writers and actors fairly. However, Barbenheimer could prove to be a case for wanting to end the strike as soon as possible because not only are there auteur-driven films that only their respective filmmakers could’ve crafted, but they have exceeded all commercial expectations and broken several domestic and international records. Were it not for the labor of the writers and actors currently on strike, the Barbenheimer cultural movement wouldn’t exist because those movies wouldn’t have gotten made.
Studios are now immediately trying to replicate the Barbenhimer success with Saw Patrol (if you weren’t aware, Saw X and PAW Patrol: The Mighty Movie are now coming out on the same day), but they fail to realize that Barbenheimer started out naturally through a grassroots campaign on social media. It wasn’t forced upon audience members. It was exactly the case with the Gentleminions movement regarding Minions: The Rise of Gru last year — TikTok users started showing up in suits to see the film. When the studios started to get involved, the movement quickly died.
It’s only because of that grassroots support that Barbenheimer became such a global sensation and that people actually saw both movies on the same day (which is the wildest thing imaginable, now having seen both films, but you do you). Some will debate that press tours are also important to guarantee a movie’s commercial success, and that can be true for certain titles, which will be part of the reason why some movies are poised to underperform under the strike. However, Barbie and Oppenheimer immediately became a box office hit as their first trailers were released, and the Barbenheimer movement grew naturally.
And now we’ve got the biggest opening of the year so far with Greta Gerwig‘s Barbie: an incredible $155 million domestically, the biggest-ever opening for a female director, for a movie based on a toy, for Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling‘s career (imagine that!) and for a film that isn’t a superhero film, sequel or remake. It also grossed over $300 million internationally, making the cumulative Barbenheimer earnings the fourth-biggest box office weekend of all time and the biggest post-COVID box office weekend, obliterating Top Gun: Maverick‘s and Spider-Man: No Way Home!
Speaking of Top Gun: Maverick, it looks like Tom Cruise won’t be saving Hollywood’s a– this year. Was it his fault that Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning – Part One didn’t leg out? Of course not. It’s entirely of Paramount’s own doing, releasing it at a time when they couldn’t get any IMAX/PLF screens beyond a week, as Barbenheimer took cinemas by storm like a rock concert. Paramount also made the same mistake with releasing Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves a week before The Super Mario Bros. Movie became the highest-grossing movie of the year so far.
Mission: Impossible also did less this week than Sound of Freedom, which is still legging out and crossed the $100 million mark this weekend. However, an addendum needs to be stated: the film’s success is based on its astroturfing campaign. Audience members are selling out cinemas while scanning their QR code during the end-credits scene and buying a ticket for someone else, but no one is showing up. The proof is in the pudding: the movie is doing terrible numbers in Canada after its first week, with many theatres having reduced its showtimes to make room for Barbenheimer. It would play on the same level as these two juggernauts if it were an actual sensation.
As for Christopher Nolan‘s Oppenheimer, it not only outperformed every expectation with an $80.5 million debut, but it’s also the biggest non-Batman opening of Nolan’s career, the biggest R-rated opening since Joker, and the third biggest domestic opening for a biographical movie. It will probably leg out more than Barbie, as that film is poised to hit that $1 billion mark quickly, as Oppenheimer will be playing in cinemas for an unprecedented 100 days. It was the norm before COVID, but now it isn’t. And now that most IMAX 15/70mm showings are sold-out for the next three weeks (seriously, good luck getting a ticket for those showings), it will hopefully give Universal (and other studios) a serious sign that they should STOP putting out their movies on VOD two to three weeks after theatrical release. If Barbenheimer can improve theatrical distribution, I’m all here for it. Now it’s time to pay the actors and writers what they want.
Here’s the full list of the top ten films of the weekend:
- Barbie (Warner Bros): $155.0M – 4,243 theatres
- Oppenheimer (Universal): $80.5M – 3,610 theatres
- Sound of Freedom (Angel Studios): $20.1M (-26.2%) – 3,285 theatres
- Mission: Impossible Dead Reckoning – Part One (Paramount): $19.5M (-64.3%) – 4,321 theatres
- Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (Disney): $6.7M (-45.4%) – 2,885 theatres
- Insidious: The Red Door (Sony): $6.5M (-50%) – 2,554 theatres
- Elemental (Disney): $5.8M (-36.3%) – 2,720 theatres
- Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Sony/Marvel): $2.8M (-53.5%) – 1,669 theatres
- Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (Paramount): $1.1M (-67.5%) – 834 theatres
- No Hard Feelings (Sony): $1.0M (-67.2%) – 1,017 theatres
Source: Box Office Mojo