‘Barbie’ Is a Box Office Triumph With $155 Million Opening, ‘Oppenheimer’ Scores $80.5 Million Start

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Greta Gerwig gives Warner Bros. its third best opening ever while Christopher Nolan earns his best non-‘Dark Knight’ launch

Margot Robbie in :Barbie" (Warner Bros.) and Cillian Murphy in "Oppenheimer" (Universal)
Margot Robbie in :Barbie" (Warner Bros.) and Cillian Murphy in "Oppenheimer" (Universal)

Not since the opening weekend of “Avengers: Endgame” have movie theaters had a box office weekend with such booming business. Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” and Universal’s “Oppenheimer” are to thank, as they are the first films to both earn openings of over $80 million in the same weekend.

Overall, the two films, along with contributions from “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning” and “Sound of Freedom,” have sent overall weekend box office totals soaring to above $300 million in North America. It’s the fourth highest overall weekend ever seen in box office history, and the only weekends that top it are the opening weekends of “Avengers: Endgame,” “Avengers: Infinity War” and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

After struggling with several DC films over the past 12 months, Warner Bros. has piloted “Barbie” to a $155 million opening, which stands among the studio’s top 5 highest openings ever before inflation adjustment. The record for Warner is $169.1 million set by “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II” in 2011.

“Barbie” also now gives Greta Gerwig the highest opening weekend for a film directed by a woman, as it edges the $153 million opening of Anna Boden’s “Captain Marvel” in 2019. It is also the highest opening weekend for its stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, which is especially noteworthy for Robbie as she starred in “Suicide Squad,” which opened to $133 million in 2016.

In a summer marketplace where the biggest openings are handed by audiences that are either majority male or fairly even, “Barbie” is the rare blockbuster hit with a significantly female-skewing audience. According to CinemaScore polls, “Barbie” has a 65% female audience with millennials serving as the core age demo with 41% coming from the 25-34 group.

For months leading up to its debut, “Barbie” has become the cultural phenomenon Hollywood dreams of thanks to a strong marketing campaign from Warner Bros. that sold Gerwig’s unique vision of the famous doll to the world and has sparked an organic fan movement, with people on social media posting the pink outfits they were wearing to the theater along with endless “Barbenheimer” memes.

Of course, that would all be for nothing if “Barbie” didn’t follow through with a quality story, and audiences have responded with resounding praise as the film has earned 90% critics and audience scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an A on CinemaScore and 4.5/5 stars on PostTrak. That is the kind of start that signals strong momentum that could carry “Barbie” through the rest of the summer.

While “Oppenheimer” isn’t reaching quite as high as “Barbie,” its excellent $80.5 million opening is a very encouraging triumph for anyone in Hollywood hoping that there’s still a place in theaters for auteur-driven, mature films at the multiplex.

Driven by a mix of director Christopher Nolan’s devoted fanbase and general audiences attracted to the film by “Barbenheimer” memes or the film’s event release marketing, “Oppenheimer” has topped the $73 million opening of “John Wick: Chapter 4” to become the highest grossing R-rated film of the year and stands just short of the top 10 highest openings for R-rated films.

That is especially remarkable when you look at the films in that top 10 — sequels and franchises “Deadpool,” “Joker,” “Logan” and “The Hangover Part II make up most of the list — and then look at what “Oppenheimer” is: a three-hour, dialogue-heavy drama about the creation of the nuclear bomb and the consequences it had on the man who led its development, J. Robert Oppenheimer.

But after a 2022 in which prestige films failed to hook audiences even to the same level as their pre-pandemic counterparts, “Oppenheimer” has won over audiences with an A on CinemaScore, critics and audience Rotten Tomatoes scores of 94%, and a whopping 93% positive score on PostTrak.

Globally, “Oppenheimer” has gotten off to a $174.2 million start, passing “Bohemian Rhapsody” for the highest worldwide launch for a biopic as Nolan’s popularity spans the globe. A big part of this success has been premium formats, as Nolanites rushed out to see the film on the biggest screen possible. The result was a 47% box office share for PLFs and a 2023-best $35 million global opening solely from Imax screens, where the film has exclusive play for the next three weeks.

In a week full of excellent news for the box office, the bad news is that another film that got critical and audience praise is getting squeezed by the competition. Paramount’s “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning” has fallen 64% from its opening weekend to $19.5 million, losing Imax screens to “Oppenheimer” while “Barbie” has taken up a good chunk of the remaining premium formats such as Dolby screens at AMC Theatres.

Through two weekends, “Mission: Impossible 7” has grossed $118.7 million domestic and $273 million worldwide, which would be consistent with past films in the Tom Cruise series but is in a position where it must do better to turn a profit against its pandemic-inflated $290 million budget before marketing.

“Mission: Impossible 7” almost lost the No. 3 spot to Angel Studios’ “Sound of Freedom,” which continues to hold well in its third weekend with $18.8 million. With a $124 million total, the Jim Caviziel film about human trafficking has now cracked the top 15 highest-grossing movies of the year.