Movie Theater Owners Say 200,000 Plan to See ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ on the Same Day

Greta Gerwig’s and Christopher Nolan’s dueling tentpoles have thus far earned overwhelmingly positive reviews

Many people plan to see both "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" the day the movies premiere.
"Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" (Warner Bros./Universal Pictures)

The National Association of Theatre Owners is projecting that more than 200,000 moviegoers will attend same-day viewings of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” at theaters across North America.

This comes a week after AMC declared that 40,000 consumers have purchased same-day tickets to both tentpoles for this weekend’s concurrent debuts. With both films earning majority-positive reviews (97% and 9.1/10 on Rotten Tomatoes for “Oppenheimer” and 89% and 8.2/10 for “Barbie“), Hollywood is looking at a skewed rerun of another box office showdown from July 2008.

Fifteen years ago, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” broke the opening weekend record with $158 million, but Meryl Streep’s “Mamma Mia!” also nabbed what was at the time the largest Friday-Sunday debut ever ($28 million) against a $100 million-plus opener.

History may be repeating itself, with Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” looking to clear triple digits right as Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” hopes to open on par with the over/under $50 million launches of “Interstellar” and “Dunkirk.” The record set in 2008 against a Nolan epic may be set again this weekend *by* a Nolan epic.

“According to our estimates, we project that more than 200,000 moviegoers in North America will be enjoying an exciting same-day double feature of ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer,’ in addition to the millions of worldwide moviegoers who are planning to see both films on different days this weekend,” NATO president and CEO Michael O’Leary said.

Hopes are high that “Barbie” will at least score Warner Bros. Discovery’s biggest opening since “The Batman” ($134 million) in early 2022, although WBD is keeping projections under $80 million while rival independent projections put it closer to the over/under $120 million launches of “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” and “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

“Oppenheimer” isn’t expecting to scale such heights, but hopes are (also) high that the Universal-distributed atomic bomb drama will leg out, both due to a monopoly on Imax screens for the next month and due to being the de-facto grown-up event movie of the season akin to “The Road to Perdition” or “Baby Driver” in summers past.

It marks Nolan’s first film outside of Warner Bros. (“Interstellar” was distributed by Paramount in North America and by WB overseas) since “Memento,” following a public falling out over Nolan’s misgivings about Jason Kilar’s decision to put all WB’s 2021 slate on HBO Max concurrently with their theatrical release. Of course, one demand before going to Universal was a guaranteed 100-day theatrical window.

O’Leary furthermore stated: “Movies have once again confirmed their power to capture our cultural imagination, with the cinema proving to be the ultimate place to go to be part of a shared experience. The excellent word of mouth on these movies, along with a diverse range of other thrilling titles, promises a continued upswing in attendance, validating that movie theaters are essential to our cultural landscape.”

Fifteen summers ago, the Batman/Joker sequel became the fourth film ever to pass $1 billion in global ticket sales, while the ABBA musical adaptation legged out to $144 million domestically and $610 million worldwide. That was more than “Iron Man” and almost as much overseas as “The Dark Knight” and “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” that same summer, and yet it was the two male-driven superhero flicks that set the template for the next decade of blockbuster filmmaking.

So there is a little irony in, after a summer filled with commercially underwhelming male-driven, IP-centric franchise flicks like “The Flash” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” it’s up to Margot Robbie’s “Barbie” movie and an R-rated, three-hour Cillian Murphy-led historical drama to juice the summer box office.