‘Barbenheimer’ Delivers Strongest Weekend at the Box Office Since Before the Pandemic

The shared opening weekend for Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” – “Barbenheimer” for short – helped deliver the highest grossing weekend at the box office since 2019 and the fourth highest of all time.


The shared opening weekend for Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” – “Barbenheimer” for short – helped deliver the highest grossing weekend at the box office since 2019 and the fourth highest of all time.

  • “Barbie,” a PG=13 comedy about the iconic dolls, earned $162 million in ticket sales in North America, making it the No. 1 movie of 2023 so far, dethroning “The Super Mario Brothers Movie.” Three-hour historical period drama “Oppenheimer” grossed $81 million.
  • The slate of films at the box office – including “Barbenheimer,” “Sound of Freedom,” and “Mission Impossible” –  collectively earned $302 million this weekend. This was the only weekend in the Top 10 to not include a Star Wars, Jurassic Park or Marvel premiere.
  • The movies aren’t sequel or a reboot or part of a cinematic universe, which likely aided their success. Several sequels and reboots released this year – “Shazam: Fury of the Gods,” “The Flash,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” “Fast X,” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” all underperformed expectations.
  • More than 200,000 people bought tickets to watch “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” (combined runtime: five hours) on the same day this weekend, including celebrated director Quentin Tarantino and the author.
  • The two films were also a hit internationally. For the first time, two films earned 10 million pounds each in the United Kingdom and Ireland on their opening weekend. “Barbie mania” has spread throughout Latin America from Mexico to Colombia.
  • “Barbenheimer” wasn’t a phenomenon everywhere. In India, “Oppenheimer” was criticized for a scene featuring characters reading from a holy Hindu scripture. “Barbie” flopped in China, and “Oppenheimer” hasn’t been assigned a release date yet, and may never receive one.
  • Vietnam banned domestic screenings of “Barbie” because a map shown in the film included the nine-dash line that China uses to claim disputed territory throughout the Sounth China Sea. The Philippines allowed “Barbie” to be shown but asked the distributor to blur the lines on the map.


reporting from the left side of the aisle


  • NBC News’ Kahlan Rosenblatt and Daysia Tolentino argued “Barbie” ushered “bimbo feminism and hyperfemininity into the mainstream.” “Barbie, with her hyperfeminine presentation, limitless abilities and various identities, is a fitting mascot for bimbo feminists.,” they explained. “TikTok bimbos are ‘all-inclusive, gender-neutral leftist icons’ whose core tenets include being ‘pro-sex work, pro-LGBTQ, pro-BLM, and anti-straight white male.’”
  • “In the words of RuPaul, perhaps the most famous drag queen of all: ‘You’re born naked, and the rest is drag.’ I think Gerwig’s ‘Barbie” gets that memo,’ UMass Lowell Professor Carol Hay wrote for Fortune. She concluded, “The hyperbolic femininity of Margot Robbie’s portrayal of the iconic doll strikes me as tantalizingly closer to queer camp than as anything that’s supposed to be taken as a sincere role model.”
  • The Atlantic’s David Sims praised Barbie as “a blockbuster adventure that bakes a big Mattel-branded cake and tries to eat it too, poking fun at the political limitations of America’s most famous doll while also giving her a believable hero’s journey.” Sims added, “Combining the meta jokiness with a heap of motivational sincerity is no easy task, but Barbie is a very charming success, an odyssey of self-improvement for a plastic idol whose reason for being is to never change, to always be the same perfect ideal.”


  • National Review’s Michael Brendan Dougherty has a theory about “America’s weekend at the movies.” “For one weekend at least, we had mass culture bidding to take back the American zeitgeist that has been owned by politics since 2015, and arguably longer than that.”
  • The New York Post’s Johnny Oleksinski argued “Barbenheimer’s” successful opening weekend “means nothing for the movies.” Instead, its success is because “ticket-buyers want Events.” Oleksinki wrote, “It’s not enough for consumers to regularly attend good movies or nice Broadway shows or average concerts and then head home and go to bed. A night out increasingly requires an extremely special occasion and a huge payoff.” He added, “That is why folks will take out a 401-k loan to buy a Taylor Swift ticket but not pay $15 to go see Pixar’s “Elemental.” At the Eras tour they can dress up in costume, get a hotel room with their friends, be in the same space as a major star and post, post, post all about it.”
  • The Washington Free Beacon’s John Podhoretz hailed “Oppenheimer” as “magnificent.” “This movie’s level of ambition is something I’m not sure we’ve seen in a major studio release in decades, and Nolan is so skilled a storyteller and so authoritative a director that his reach blessedly does not exceed his grasp,” Podhoretz wrote. “This is not a subtle movie, and there’s barely a joke or a laugh in it; as in all his pictures, Nolan presents us with an earnest, formal, and heavy world. But what he doesn’t do is preach, and that is what makes this movie such a triumph.”


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© Dominic Moore, 2023