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Barbie claimed the top spot with €139 million in ticket sales from North American cinemas. PA

Barbie takes US box office crown and Oppenheimer soars in ‘historic’ weekend

Both films vastly outperformed projections and gave a glimmer of hope amid the backdrop of strikes in Hollywood.

BARBENHEIMER, THE SOCIAL media-fuelled fusion of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer brought moviegoers back to US cinemas in record numbers this weekend.

It vastly outperformed projections and gave a glimmer of hope amid the backdrop of strikes.

Warner Bros’ Barbie claimed the top spot with $155 million (€139 million) in ticket sales from North American cinemas from 4,243 locations, surpassing The Super Mario Bros Movie as well as every Marvel movie this year as the biggest opening of the year and breaking the first weekend record for a film directed by a woman.

Universal’s Oppenheimer also soared past expectations, taking in $80.5 million (€72.3 million) from 3,610 cinemas in the US and Canada, marking Nolan’s biggest non-Batman debut and one of the best starts for an R-rated biographical drama.

It’s also the first time that one movie opened to more than $100 million (€89.8 million) and another movie opened to more than $80 million (€71.8 million) in the same weekend.

It is expected to be the fourth biggest box office weekend of all time with more than $300 million (€269 million) industrywide.

The Barbenheimer phenomenon may have started out as good-natured competition between two aesthetic opposites, but, as many hoped, both movies benefitted in the end.

Internationally, Barbie earned $182 million (€163 million) from 69 territories, fuelling a $337 million (€302 million) global weekend.

Oppenheimer earned $93.7 million (€84.1 million) from 78 territories, ranking above Barbie in India, for a $174.2 million (€156.5 million) global total.

The only real casualty was Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part I, which despite strong reviews and a healthy opening weekend fell 64% in weekend two.

Overshadowed by the Barbenheimer glow as well as the blow of losing its IMAX screens to Oppenheimer, the Tom Cruise vehicle added $19.5 million (€17.5 million), bringing its domestic total to $118.8 million (€106.7 million).

Women drove the Barbie opening, making up 65% of the audience, according to PostTrak, and 40% of ticket buyers were under the age of 25 for the PG-13 rated movie.

“It’s just a joyous time in the world. This is history in so many ways,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros’s president of domestic distribution.

“I think this marketing campaign is one for the ages that people will be talking about forever,” he added.

Oppenheimer audiences meanwhile were 62% male and 63% over the age of 25, with a somewhat surprising 32% that were between the ages of 18 and 24.

Both Barbie and Oppenheimer scored well with critics with 90% and 94% on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively, and audiences who gave both films an A CinemaScore.

“The ‘Barbenheimer’ thing was a real boost for both movies,” Mr Goldstein said. “It is a crowning achievement for all of us.”

Oppenheimer had the vast majority (80%) of premium large format screens at its disposal.

Some 25 cinemas in North America boasted IMAX 70mm screenings, most of which were completely sold out all weekend — accounting for 2% of the total gross. Cinemas even scrambled to add more to accommodate the demand including 1am and 6am screenings, which also sold out.

“Nolan’s films are truly cinematic events,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution.

IMAX showings alone made up 26% of the domestic gross from only 411 screens and 20% of the global gross, and Oppenheimer will have at least a three-week run on those high-demand screens.

“This is a phenomenon beyond compare,” said Rich Gelfond, the chief executive of IMAX, in a statement. “Around the world, we’ve seen sellouts at 4am shows and people travelling hours across borders to see Oppenheimer in IMAX 70mm.”

“It was a truly historic weekend and continues the positive box office momentum of 2023,” said Michael O’Leary, president and chief executive of the National Association of Theatre Owners.

People recognised that something special was happening and they wanted to be a part of it.”

And yet in the background looms disaster as Hollywood studios continue to squabble with striking actors and writers over a fair contract.

Barbie and Oppenheimer were the last films on the 2023 calendar to get a massive, global press tour. Both went right up to the 11th hour, squeezing in every last moment with their movie stars.

Oppenheimer even pushed up its London premiere by an hour, knowing that Emily Blunt, Matt Damon and Cillian Murphy would have to leave to symbolically join the picket lines by the time the movie began.

Without movie stars to promote their films, studios have started pushing some autumn releases, including the high-profile Zendaya tennis drama Challengers.

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