'Barbie' beats 'Oppenheimer' in record-breaking, industry-revitalizing showdown (2023)

This “Barbie” just scored the biggest domestic opening weekend of 2023.

Marking a hot-pink, record-breaking bright spot for a film industry still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and now disrupted by two massive strikes, Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Barbie” debuted in first place at the box office this weekend, earning an estimated $155 million in the United States and Canada. The PG-13 comedy easily defeated Universal Pictures’ “Oppenheimer,” which opened in second place with $80.5 million — an impressive number for an R-rated film — according to studio estimates.

Those already lofty earnings ballooned to $162 million for “Barbie” and $82.4 million for “Oppenheimer” when studios reported final numbers Monday.

In addition to notching the biggest launch of the year — ahead of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($146.4 million) — Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” also scored the best domestic debut of all time for a title directed by a woman, surpassing 2019’s “Captain Marvel” ($153 million).


The combined returns of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” helped make this the highest-grossing weekend since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020, according to measurement firm Comscore, and the fourth-highest grossing weekend ever at the domestic box office ($302 million, per Sunday estimates).

Perhaps even more important is how those records were set.

Historically, the highest-grossing weekends have been primarily fueled by one major franchise installment dominating the market (“Avengers: Endgame” in 2019, “Avengers: Infinity War” in 2018, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” in 2015). This is the first time two competing movies have opened to more than $100 million and $80 million in the same frame. And unlike the aforementioned record-setters, neither “Barbie” nor “Oppenheimer” is a superhero movie, sequel or reboot — signaling a triumph for (relatively) original storytelling in an industry increasingly dependent on preexisting franchises.

That’s a huge deal, especially when you consider that — before “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” — the domestic box office was lagging 16.1% and 6.6% behind the year-to-date earnings of 2019 and 2022, respectively, according to Comscore. And the record is unlikely to be beaten any time soon, as the ongoing strikes by Hollywood’s writers and actors will prevent talent from promoting forthcoming work.

LA Times Today: Why the movie industry needs ‘Barbenheimer’ now more than ever

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Suffice it to say the film industry received a much-needed shot in the arm thanks to the cinematic, cultural phenomenon that is “Barbenheimer.” For months, people around the world have anticipated the simultaneous releases of Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” — two auteur-driven studio tentpoles so thematically opposed that movie fans have been fusing them in memes, posters, T-shirts, TikTok videos and now, theaters.

“There’s certainly some cross-pollination going on,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore.

“Film buffs will be created this weekend after maybe some people who had no intention to see ‘Barbie’ will now see that. Others who had no intention to see ‘Oppenheimer’ — because of ‘Barbenheimer’ — are going to want to see both. And that’s really cool.”


Commentary: Can Tom Cruise, Oppenheimer and Barbie save the summer box office?

Taken together, this trifecta of films has beleaguered industry-watchers breathlessly anticipating a boost to the summer box office, with the kind of ticket sales needed to soothe Hollywood’s frayed nerves when it comes to the future of the big screen.

As of Sunday morning, it was clear that many thousands of moviegoers indeed had seen both — often back to back. AMC Theaters reported Friday that more than 60,000 loyalty program members had reserved tickets to watch “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” on the same day.


Cinemas across the country were packed with moviegoers dressed in bubblegum pink and/or charcoal costumes to celebrate the movie event of the summer. On social media, fans fervently debated which film they should watch first. (A self-professed Nolan fanatic, Dergarabedian opted to start with the grim “Oppenheimer” and chase it with “Barbie.”)

“It’s so rare,” said Dergarabedian, who couldn’t remember a dual-opening weekend generating this much collective buzz since 2000’s “The Patriot” and “The Perfect Storm.”

“I mean, this is marketing catnip. ... To have this situation where you have these two films, linked together in this way ... rival studios but yet having this sort of baked-in camaraderie here.”

Company Town

‘Barbie’ + ‘Oppenheimer’ = ‘Barbenheimer.’ Why Hollywood needs the movie mashup

The viral social media phenomenon, inspired by the same-day release of ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer,’ is the best advertising campaign for moviegoing that no studio could’ve come up with.

Undoubtedly boosted by the popularity of the “Barbenheimer” double feature, the feminist flick about a doll come to life and the historical drama about the father of the atomic bomb over-performed in the United States and Canada. It also doesn’t hurt that both features boast marquee directors and A-list casts headlined by Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling (“Barbie”) and Cillian Murphy and Emily Blunt (“Oppenheimer”).

“This was a phenomenal experience for people who love movies on the big screen,” Michael O’Leary, president of the National Assn. of Theatre Owners, said in a statement.

“It was a truly historic weekend and continues the positive box office momentum of 2023. More importantly, it proves once again that America loves going to the movies to see great films.”


Review: With Robbie in pink and Gosling in mink, ‘Barbie’ (wink-wink) will make you think

The much-memed, long-awaited feature from director Greta Gerwig is a delightful comic fantasy that promotes and deconstructs its own Mattel doll brand.

And it’s not just ticket sales that matter in this industry-revitalizing moment.

“If you’re going to see that double feature ... you’re going to be at the theater for a long time,” Dergarabedian said.

“That’s a lot of popcorn, a lot of soda, a lot of drinks, a lot of food, a lot of exposure to in-theater marketing and trailers. ... It’s like the Super Bowl for movie theaters this weekend. And that’s going to be a really good thing ... for the business moving forward.”


Ryan Gosling and Greta Gerwig on how Ken became the subversive center of ‘Barbie’

Star Ryan Gosling and director Greta Gerwig open up about Ken’s journey to toxic masculinity and back in their comedy based on the iconic Mattel toys.

It’s worth noting that “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” are more than commercial successes. Both movies have also fared exceedingly well with critics and audiences, which bodes well for their box-office futures.

“Barbie” notched a stellar 90% fresh rating on review-aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, while “Oppenheimer” came in even higher at 94%. Each picture received an A grade from audiences polled by CinemaScore.

“We need to look at the long-term playability of both of these films, because they’re going to have ... very different journeys to their final box-office result,” Dergarabedian said.

“‘Barbie’ certainly will be more front-loaded ... But ‘Oppenheimer’ is going to build on it being a different type of summer-style movie. This feels like a movie that’s certainly gonna be recognized come awards season. So it’s going to have a very long life in the public consciousness.”


America Ferrera delivers ‘Barbie’s’ big showstopper: ‘It just hit me as the truth’

As the human heart in a comedy filled with neurotic dolls, the ‘Ugly Betty’ award-winner is ready to take a bolder step toward the big screen with ‘Barbie.’

One important caveat on awards: The strikes have the potential to hinder Oscar campaigns for both films.

Although members of the Writers Guild of America have been on the picket lines for weeks, Warner Bros. and Universal lucked out with plenty of time to promote their respective titles before the actors’ union SAG-AFTRA dropped the other shoe on July 14. (Backed by Mattel, “Barbie” had a particularly robust marketing strategy involving viral character posters, custom dolls, a star-studded soundtrack and a real-life Malibu Dreamhouse.)

“They really got in under the wire in a sense, because their marketing message was so strong and so amplified,” Dergarabedian said.

Rounding out the top five at the domestic box office this weekend were Angel Studios’ “Sound of Freedom,” which grossed $20.1 million in its third frame for a North American total of $124.7 million; Paramount Pictures’ “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” which added $19.5 million in its sophomore outing for a North American cumulative of $118.8 million; and Disney’s “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” which earned $6.7 million in its fourth weekend for a North American haul of $159 million.

Opening in wide release next weekend are A24’s “Talk to Me,” GKIDS’ “The First Slam Dunk” and Disney’s “Haunted Mansion.”


Is Barbie beating Oppenheimer? ›

'Barbie' beats 'Oppenheimer' at the box office with a record $155 million debut. Ryan Gosling, left, and Margot Robbie pose for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film Barbie on this month London. Step aside, all you dusty old superhero franchises.

Who won Barbie vs Oppenheimer? ›

Barbie wins this one, gaining more than double the box office revenue as Oppenheimer. However, Barbie did have some advantages that must be taken into account. Barbie opened to $155 million over the weekend, meaning it overtook the Super Mario Bros. for biggest debut of the year.

Did Barbie or Oppenheimer make more? ›

"Barbie" ended up coming out on top, raking in $155 million at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo. Oppenheimer, which is about physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led U.S. efforts to create the atomic bomb, raked in $80.5 million to place second for the weekend of July 21-23.

How did Barbie do at the box office this weekend? ›

Greta Gerwig's “Barbie” defied a sluggish pandemic recovery at movie theaters to rake in $155 million domestically over its opening weekend. The haul made it the highest-grossing debut of 2023 and the top contributor to the fourth-largest weekend at the box office in the U.S. of all time.

Why did Barbie beat Oppenheimer? ›

Oppenheimer's R rating limited its audience, as it dealt with mature themes. Barbie's shorter runtime allowed for more showings and better box office performance. The film's summer blockbuster aesthetic and extensive marketing added to its overall appeal.

Who is Barbie's nemesis? ›

Raquelle is usually the villain or antagonist in the show. Raquelle founded The Raquelle Boutique in an attempt to overshadow Barbie's own store.

What is the number one selling Barbie of all time? ›

We'll always have a soft spot in our hearts for 1992 Barbie — and she just so happens to be the best-selling one of all time.

What is the best-selling Barbie doll in history? ›

Among the iterations of the iconic doll is “Totally Hair” Barbie, which, according to the Guinness World Records, is Mattel's bestselling Barbie doll to date. According to the company, the “Totally Hair” Barbie, released in 1992, sold more than 10 million dolls worldwide.

Has Barbie ever had a girlfriend? ›

While some on social are wondering how Barbie snagged a girlfriend before them, or when exactly she came out, Aimee Song weighed in to make the relationship Twitter-official. “I am the girlfriend,” Aimee tweeted, alongside a photo of herself and her Barbie likeness wearing her “Love Wins” t-shirts.

Who has the world's largest Barbie collection? ›

The 62-year-old superfan, from Germany, has been collecting the iconic character for 30 years, and she's amassed an impressive collection of 18,500 dolls. Bettina has held the record for the largest collection of Barbie dolls since 2005.

Is Oppenheimer a box office hit? ›

By Grace Cyril: Christopher Nolan's film 'Oppenheimer' is on a winning streak in India! The film is performing even better than Greta Gerwig's 'Barbie' here. In seven days, 'Oppenheimer' managed to cross the Rs 70 crore-mark at the domestic box office!

Who is the new Barbie self made millionaire? ›

It's a series featuring women who took risks, changed things and made a difference for future generations, according to a statement from Mattel. Madam C.J. Walker was a Black entrepreneur, activist and philanthropist who became the first self-made woman millionaire, according to a statement from Mattel.

Did Barbie break records? ›

“Barbie” didn't just break the opening weekend record for 2023; It also shattered the first weekend record for a film directed by a woman.

Who won the Barbie Girl lawsuit? ›

Aqua's chart-topping 1997 hit "Barbie Girl" called the doll a "blond bimbo" and was full of innuendos. Mattel sued MCA Records over the song, but a judge dismissed the lawsuit. "Barbie Girl" is now being revived in Greta Gerwig's film with a performance by Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice.

Did Barbie do well at the box office? ›

Director Greta Gerwig's colossal Barbie movie has grossed more than $200 million at the domestic box office in its first five days in theaters, shattering the record for biggest opening for a film with a female director, as the Mattel doll's big screen debut heads for $500 million in global ticket sales.

How is Barbie doing in the box office? ›

Greta Gerwig's bubblegum pink feature has generated $214 million during its first five days at the domestic box office. “Barbie” has also topped $470 million globally.

Who is the villain in Oppenheimer? ›

Downey plays Lewis Strauss, the man who destroyed Oppenheimer's reputation. From the beginning there's contempt in their relationship; Oppenheimer mispronouncing Strauss' name is the first of indignities that the latter takes too personally.

How is Barbie doing at box office? ›

Director Greta Gerwig's colossal Barbie movie has grossed more than $200 million at the domestic box office in its first five days in theaters, shattering the record for biggest opening for a film with a female director, as the Mattel doll's big screen debut heads for $500 million in global ticket sales.

How much did Oppenheimer and Barbie make? ›

Internationally, “Barbie” earned $182 million from 69 territories, fueling a $337 million global weekend. “Oppenheimer” did $93.7 million from 78 territories, ranking above “Barbie” in India, for a $174.2 million global total.

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