With Barbenheimer living up to the hype, this weekend represents the first time in box office history a film has made over $100 million while a second has earned over $50 million.
This weekend was one of those weekends where I absolutely love doing what I do. To be a box office reporter for this site has always been an amazing gig, but this weekend took it to another level because of what it represented. It was historic in all the right ways. Two tent pole sized movies go head to head, but instead of one being hailed the victor and the other the loser, they both get to go down in history as success stories. It was a weekend that truly represented the power of movies. Whether your social media feed was filled with people taking pictures in front of movie theaters wearing their pinkest outfits, to parking lots across the country being filled to the brim as people saw one (or both) of these films before heading out to a restaurant or to the mall. This weekend felt like a time long forgotten, when people would line up around the block to score tickets to a highly anticipated new movie.
Sure, we have seen massive movies hit theaters in the not too distant past, Avatar: The Way of Water is less than a year old and already the third highest grossing movie of all time at the worldwide box office. In December 2021, we saw Spider-Man: No Way Home absolutely crush it with a $260.1 million opening weekend. And yet, this weekend felt different, this weekend felt like a cultural milestone that will be remembered for years, maybe even decades to come. I can picture it now, I will be sitting down to read my grandchild a bed time story in our house on Mars and as I close the book, he or she will look at me and ask “Grandpa, did you go see Barbenheimer on opening weekend?” And I will proudly say “Yes child, I sure did” before my hologram disappears.
So, let’s start at the top: Greta Gerwig’s Barbie easily claimed the top of the charts with a reported $155 million, exactly $85 million more than Warner Bros was predicting for the film on Thursday, and $40 million more than what we predicted. To put that into even more perspective, Transformers, another property based on a popular toy line, opened with $70.5 million back in 2007, which in 2023 dollars would be a little under $104 million. This is the type of win that Warner Bros so desperately needed after a few years of horrible headlines after David Zaslav took over the company which hit a fever pitch just last month when The Flash bombed beyond anyones expectations. Of course, Warner Bros being Warner Bros wanted to balance out the good headlines of Barbie’s opening with the headlines that they are considering pushing the remainder of their 2023 slate to 2024, which would delay the highly anticipated Dune 2.
With that number, Greta Gerwig can now lay claim to having the highest opening weekend ever for a female director, beating out the co-directed effort of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck for Captain Marvel ($153 million) and the solo directing record of Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman ($103 million). It also beat The Super Mario Bros. Movie for biggest opening weekend of the year. With solid reviews (currently 90% on Rotten Tomatoes) and excellent audience reception (90% audience score with an A Cinemascore) you can expect Barbie to have long legs (pun intended) at the box office and with a worldwide opening over $300 million, will more than likely be the newest member of the Billion dollar club when all is said and done. You can check out Chris Bumbray’s 7/10 review here.
Coming in second place is the Christopher Nolan epic Oppenheimer with an estimated $80.5 million, making it the iconic filmmakers biggest non Dark Knight opening weekend ever (beating Inception’s $62.7 million, while The Dark Knight Rises remains his all time best opener at $160.8 million.) Nolan is a name that brings people out to theaters, but I’m not sure anyone thought an R-rated, 3-hour long drama with just one true action scene would pull in the numbers it did. Is the Barbenheimer effect real? Was the one two punch of a light hearted glamorous comedy juxtaposed against a darker moody drama just too much for movie goers to pass up? Perhaps, but it also helps that Oppenheimer is one of the best films of not just the year, but perhaps ever made (in my most humble of opinions.) The film could have just been the two hours leading up to the Trinity test and it would have been an amazing experience, but for my money, it was that last hour that took the film from amazing to a flat out masterpiece. To the Academy voters, who all obviously read our box office reports every week, when it comes time for your nominations, make sure Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr and Emily Blunt are all on your lists, as well as Christopher Nolan (and to bring Barbie into the mix, don’t forget Ryan Gosling, because that was one of the best comedic performances I have ever seen, while I’m sure that film’s Production Design will easily nab a nomination and probably the win. I’m sure Gerwig’s name will be in the conversation for Director while I wouldn’t be surprised at a screenplay nomination either.) You can expect Oppenheimer to have solid legs at the box office as it will retain its Imax screens for at the very least the next three weeks while critics and audiences agree that it is one of the best films of the year (94% on Rotten Tomatoes with a 94% audience score and an A cinemascore.) You can check out Eric Walkuski’s 8/10 review here.
Sadly it looks like all that fandom for the Barbenheimer event took its toll on Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning Part One as that film looks to take a 64% dive from its already soft opening with a reported $19.5 million weekend for a fourth place finish. I don’t think this is a case of the movie being bad, because it isn’t! it is actually one of the best action movies of the last few years and has garnered great reviews (96% on Rotten Tomatoes) and great reaction from those who have paid to see it (94% Audience Score with an A cinemascore.) I think this was just a case of an insanely crowded weekend where the top two movies released weren’t just big movies, they were events. I still think Dead Reckoning Part One will even out in the weeks to come and ultimately have decent numbers, but that $300 million budget will weigh down just how successful this film really is. Dead Reckoning Part Two is currently slated to hit theaters on June 28, 2024, which puts it in prime position for a solid Independence Day run, with currently only Despicable Me 4 and Mufasa: The Lion King expected to open the week after, so it should have a better runway for success than Part One did.
The other major story of the summer is the massive success of the independent film Sound of Freedom which leap frogged Dead Reckoning this weekend to take the third place spot with an additional $20.1 million and a domestic total of $124.7 million. I personally don’t know anyone who has seen the movie (apart from our Editor in Chief Chris Bumbray who gave the film a 6/10 in his review) but apparently the film has its fans and they are showing their appreciation for the movie with their wallets.
The remainder of the box office this week are your summer holdovers such as Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny ($6.7 million), Insidious: The Red Door ($6.5 million), Elemental ($5.8 million), Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse ($2.8 million), Transformers: Rise of the Beasts ($1.1 million) and No Hard Feelings ($1.07 million).
Were you one of the reported 18.5 million people who saw Barbie and Oppenheimer this weekend? Let us know in the comments section your thoughts on this monumental weekend at the theaters and don’t forget to check out our weekly poll where we ask: What is your Favorite Christopher Nolan Film?