Hype for the upcoming release of two of this summer’s biggest blockbusters has already set the box office on fire.
- On Thursday, July 20, director Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and director Greta Gerwig’s Barbie will be released in theaters on the same day.
- The excitement surrounding both movies has spawned the “Barbenheimer” meme, with movie fans goofing on both movies and pretending they are the same film.
- AMC Theaters announced this week that its Stubs rewards program has booked 40,000 tickets for patrons eager to see both films back to back this weekend.
- Early projections suggest Barbie will be the weekend winner with a $85 million opening, followed by a $45 million opening for Oppenheimer, but exhibitors tell The Wrap that these may prove somewhat conservative.
- A July 11 study from UK cinema chain Vue says 19% of people who bought tickets to Oppenheimer also bought tickets to Barbie.
Why It’s News
The release of two high-profile blockbuster studio films would, in most circumstances, create confusion in the box office, with one of the two studios pushing their film to avoid unnecessary competition. However, that is not the case with Barbie and Oppenheimer. The diametrically opposite tone and content of both films—one being a dark history film about the creation of the atomic bomb and the other a fun fantasy comedy—has created a perfect storm of good PR for Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures.
It has helped that the actors and creators behind both films have embraced the “Barbenheimer” meme for good publicity. Barbie star Margot Robbie and director Greta Gerwig released a promotional image of themselves seeing an early screening of Oppenheimer, while their opposing creatives, Christopher Nolan and Cillian Murphy, promoted Barbie and promised to see it in theaters. “My advice would be for people to go see both on the same day. If they are good films, then cinema wins,” says Murphy.
Actor Tom Cruise even joined the meme as a cross-promotion for his new film Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, advocating for movie audiences to go see all three films this month while they are in theaters.
Theaters have prepared for the influx of screenings by staggering movie times for both films and providing as many available screenings as possible to accommodate repeat viewings. The Alamo Drafthouse US cinema chain tells Bloomberg it is seeing a “significant number” of requests for private double-feature screenings for corporate parties, birthdays, and groups.
“That more than 20,000 moviegoers have already made plans and purchased tickets to see Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same day is a great sign that the growing online conversation around seeing both of these incredible films is turning into ticket sales. Just as exciting, with 10 days to go until these movies open, this may only be the beginning. From Friday to today, we saw a 33% increase in the number of guests who decided to create their own double feature by purchasing tickets to see both movies on the same day. We are thrilled to see this momentum,” AMC VP Elizabeth Frank told Variety last week before presales doubled.