June 17, 2024

‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ Set Post-Pandemic Box Office High

“Barbie” arrived as a full-blown cultural event, with thousands of filmmakers donning pink for performances, doll memes flooding social media and marketers scrambling (sometimes frantically) to glam up the moment. The audience was 65 percent female. “For a movie this pink, you’d expect the audience to be closer to 90 percent female — we got a lot of guys,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros. president of domestic distribution. “It exploded everywhere: big markets, small markets, coast to coast.”

Harrison Hood, 24, arrived at the AMC Kips Bay theater in Manhattan wearing “Barbie” regalia.Credit…Maansi Srivastava/The New York Times

Some theaters seemed caught off guard. One high-end theater in the Washington DC suburbs went all out on promotion, with pink lights to highlight “Barbie” and a wall of movie posters featuring both movies. But the theater may have miscalculated Saturday’s attendance. By the 10 pm performance, there were few food items. There was also a lack of soft drinks and, surprisingly, ice.

Another theater in Arlington, Va., had it worse: The air conditioning went out, leading to a sweltering experience. Although the theater offered refunds, many ticket buyers remained.

The question now is whether Hollywood can keep the momentum going. Studio executives have long pointed out that filming means going to the movies—that the habit of seeing movies in theaters is essential. However, another crisis is looming for studios: A strike by union actors, which began on July 14, could force film companies to push back upcoming films because hit stars cannot participate in publicity campaigns. “Challengers,” a sports drama featuring a love triangle and starring Zendaya, is already being pushed from September to April.

There are no scheduled talks between SAG-AFTRA, as the actors’ union is known, and the studios.

“Oppenheimer” helped spawn “Barbie” and vice versa, with its simultaneous release nicknamed Barbenheimer and movie fans captivated by its wild irresponsibility. Nolan’s film, which cost Universal Pictures at least $100 million to make, not including a megawatt marketing campaign, is a three-hour drama about Robert Oppenheimer, the man known as “the father of the atomic bomb.” About 200,000 people bought tickets to see “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” as a double feature, according to the National Association of Theater Owners, a trade organization.

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