In one of the most highly anticipated weekends for movie lovers, perhaps ever, Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer finally arrive
It is finally here, the day audiences, and movie theaters, have been anticipating since it was announced these two films would go head to head. It all started when Christopher Nolan and Warner Bros parted ways after the release of his last film Tenet and the studios decision to release their entire 2021 catalog of films to their HBO Max streaming service. Nolan, a fervent supporter of the theatrical experience called out his long time studio saying “Some of our industry’s biggest filmmakers and most important movie stars went to bed the night before thinking they were working for the greatest movie studio and woke up to find out they were working for the worst streaming service.” What would result from the fallout would be a massive bidding war between all the major studios to secure Christopher Nolan and his next film, as Nolan films have become not just movies, but events.
Universal would win that war and on October 8, 2021 would announce that Nolan’s next film, Oppenheimer, would be released on July 21, 2023. To put it into perspective, when Universal made this announcement the only other movie scheduled to hit theaters that day was Warner Bros Coyote vs. Acme. Perhaps feeling that a movie based on the popular Looney Tunes characters wasn’t enough competition, Warner Bros would announce on April 26, 2022, at that years annual Cinema Con event, that Barbie was taking over the Coyote vs Acme date. Setting up one of the biggest theatrical days in history. Many speculated that Warner Bros had decided to release Barbie against Oppenheimer as a way to get back at Nolan for leaving the studio, but when asked about it, Nolan simply said that a crowded marketplace is a great thing for people who care about movies. Soon after the word Barbenheimer would begin making its way on to social media with merchandise carrying the now popular portmanteau quickly gaining in popularity on sites like Etsy.
So now, that fateful day is upon us and in terms of box office dollars, there really is no question that Barbie will be the victor. With its lean run time of 114 minutes and more audience friendly light hearted material, Barbie will easily take first place this weekend but the real question is how high will it go? Presales for Barbie have been in the Avatar: The Way of Water range which opened with $134 million back in December, while Warner Bros is playing it a bit safe and officially tracking the film to open at $75 million, while rival studios say the film will hit between $90- $125 million. That is a wide range of numbers! But Warner bros has it right by expecting low because anything over $75 million will be a huge win for the studio. I will put my predictions at the $115 million mark as the competition in the marketplace will dampen some ticket sales, but this one will ultimately be a massive money maker for the studio, even with its reported $145 million budget.
Having seen the film last night, I can say that it is genuinely funny. It reminded me of movies such as 1995’s The Brady Bunch Movie mixed with 2003’s Elf with a sprinkle of 1980’s Airplane! and a dash of 2021’s underrated Barb and Star Go To Vista Del Mar. And what is the one thing all of those films have in common? It’s that they all did dumb humor so smartly! I will say that the movie is a shoo in for a Best Production Design Oscar Nomination, and I’d be surprised if it doesn’t win while I hope the Academy takes note of Ryan Gosling’s absolutely perfect portrayal of Ken. You can check out our Editor in Chief Chris Bumbray’s 7/10 review here.
So now on to the second of our Barbenheimer films, Christopher Nolan’s R rated 3-hour opus about J. Robert Oppenheimer, a man many deem the most important figure in the history of the world. What makes this Barbenheimer phenomenon so unique is that many people are taking the opportunity to see these opposing films on the same day. AMC currently reports that over 40,000 movie goers have purchased tickets for both films on the same day with the National Association of Theatre Owners saying that over 200 thousand audience members have purchased same day tickets for both films. Right now Oppenheimer is tracking for a $50 million opening, which, with the exception of the covid release of Tenet, is right around where all of Nolan’s post Dark Knight Trilogy films open (Inception: 62.7 million; Interstellar: $47.5 million; Dunkirk: $50.5 million.) The good news for Oppenheimer is that even if it opens at that $50 million range (which I’m going to say the film can get to $60 million, the anticipation and solid reviews for this one, including an 8/10 from our own Eric Walkuski, are enough to overcome its lengthy run time) Nolan films tend to have legs as they are geared more towards an audience that doesn’t always rush out to the theaters on opening weekend. This could also be a film that plays much like Avatar: The Way of Water where audiences are willing to wait it out to make sure they get the optimal seats in the biggest theaters. I have my ticket ready to go for tonight’s 5pm showing, I am even driving an hour out of my way to see it in a true 70mm screening!
So with Barbie and Oppenheimer likely to take the one and two spots on the charts, the next big question of the weekend will be: how well does Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One hold up in its second week? The film will be losing nearly all of its premium screens to the two new releases. As the saying goes: a rising tide lifts all ships, and I think the massive influx of people at theaters this weekend will help Mission: Impossible hold on to a solid portion of its audience. As we said last week, even with Dead Reckoning’s lower than expected opening, this isn’t another Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny disaster… yet! Dead Reckoning features solid reviews and great audience reactions, despite losing those premium screens, people will still want to experience this latest Tom Cruise epic on the big screen. With that said, I think we will see a sub 50% decline and land around $29 million for the weekend.
Fourth place will go to Sound of Freedom as that movie continues its historic run at the box office with another $20 million while Disney fights itself for fifth place as Indiana Jones dukes it out with the elements of Elemental. I will give the edge to Elemental as I think families may not be taking their kids to see a PG13 movie filled with sex related humor or a 3-hour, R rated movie about the Atomic bomb, but a nice light PG rated movie about fire and water falling in love!
What are your thoughts on this weekends box office fight between Oppenheimer and Barbie? Do you think Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning Part One can hang on or will it get lost in the shuffle? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to check back with us on Saturday as we have a brief update on the box office numbers.
TOP FIVE PREDICTIONS
- Barbie– $115 Million
- Oppenheimer– $60 Million
- Mission: Impossible- Dead Reckoning Part One– $29 Million
- Sound of Freedom– $20 Million
- Elemental– $8 Million