‘Barbie’ on the Road to $70 Million-Plus Opening in Early Box Office Tracking

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Warner Bros. is expecting $60 million for Greta Gerwig’s comedy, while Universal’s “Oppenheimer” is tracking for $40 million

Warner Bros.

Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” and Universal’s “Oppenheimer,” two films that have captured the internet’s imagination with their shared July 21 release, have hit box office tracking with early projections expecting solid results for both films.

“Barbie,” as long expected, is projected to take No. 1 that weekend with a $70 million-plus opening. While rival distributors and exhibition sources tell TheWrap that “Barbie” has a lot of upside and could top $80 million, Warner Bros. insiders are more conservative and are predicting a $60 million-$65 million opening, which they say would be seen by the studio as a solid result for a film that has a budget of around $100 million.

Warner Bros. has been licking its wounds at the box office since its merger with Discovery last summer, suffering multiple box office failures like “Don’t Worry Darling,” “Shazam! Fury of the Gods,” and most recently “The Flash,” which suffered the worst second weekend drop ever for a DC film.

But “Barbie” has become an online sensation, winning over potential moviegoers with strong trailers that have sold the film as a straight-up meta comedy with trailers that highlight Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling’s chemistry as Barbie and Ken. Combine that with a considerably lower budget than “The Flash,” and “Barbie” could have a solid run through August that gives Warner Bros. its first bona fide blockbuster hit since “Elvis” a year ago.

“Oppenheimer,” meanwhile, is tracking for a more modest $35 million-$40 million opening, below the $50 million opening of director Christopher Nolan’s WWII film “Dunkirk” but still decent given the film’s reported $100 million production budget and similar marketing spend. Thanks to a special deal negotiated between Nolan, Universal and Imax, “Oppenheimer” will have three weeks of play on Imax screens, a premium format boost rarely given to films in this competitive tentpole market.

Thanks to films like “Inception” and the “Dark Knight” trilogy, Christopher Nolan has built a loyal following of fans who see his movies as event releases that must be seen in the best premium format possible, and exhibition sources tell TheWrap that presales for “Oppenheimer” in 70mm and Imax screenings have exceeded that of “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny.”

The question, however, is whether the grim subject matter of “Oppenheimer” will be able to reach a wider audience beyond cinephiles. At a time when acclaimed prestige films like “Till,” “Tár” and “Women Talking” barely made any money in specialty release and studio films like “She Said” have tanked in wide release, there is the possibility that “Oppenheimer” and its tale about the creation of the nuclear bomb and its consequences will put off general audiences looking for escapism rather than something that explores tough, real-world issues.