The films Barbie and Oppenheimer attracted cinemagoers in record numbers for their opening weekend in North America, raking in a combined $235.5m after a difficult start to the summer for Hollywood.
Warner Bros’s Barbie, directed by Greta Gerwig, generated $155m in ticket sales, overtaking The Super Mario Bros Movie as the biggest opening of 2023.
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Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, chronicling the life of the father of the atomic bomb J Robert Oppenheimer, took in $80.5m, beating expectations in one of the strongest debuts for a biographical drama.
“Barbenheimer”, the social media-fuelled portmanteau that describes the same-day release of the films, is expected to rake in more than $300m by the end of the weekend to become the fourth-biggest box office opening of all time.
The simultaneous release of two of the year’s most-anticipated blockbusters spurred hundreds of thousands of filmgoers to go see the films on the same day for an unlikely double feature.
Both films have been well-received by critics, scoring 90 percent and 94 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, respectively.
“The Barbenheimer thing was a real boost for both movies,” said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros president of domestic distribution.
“It is a crowning achievement for all of us.”
Barbenheimer’s stellar performance comes as Hollywood grapples with its biggest strike in decades and after a lacklustre June and July that saw both The Flash as well as Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny underperform at the box office.
The strong showing of Barbenheimer left a large gap with the rest of the box office top five.
Sound of Freedom, a controversial action thriller that critics say promotes QAnon conspiracy theories, brought in $20.14m in the number three spot.
Paramount’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny took the fourth and fifth spots, raking in $19.5m and $6.7m, respectively.
Michael O’Leary, CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners, described the box office frenzy as a “truly historic weekend” for cinema.
“This was a phenomenal experience for people who love movies on the big screen,” O’Leary said in a statement Sunday.