“Barbie” beats “Oppenheimer” at the international box office

The battle of the bomb against the bomb has gone global.

Over the weekend, Greta Gerwig’s pink fantasy comedy Barbie grossed a staggering US$182 million at the international box office, bringing the worldwide total to US$337 million. Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan’s R-rated historical drama Oppenheimer held its own, grossing $93.7 million in 78 markets for a whopping $174 million in total gross sales.

“The weekend is a reminder of the cultural relevance films can bring,” said David A. Gross, who runs film consultancy Franchise Entertainment Research. Elsewhere, he adds, “Many of the summer’s high-profile sequels have stalled and the new stories have been muted.”

Jokingly pitted against each other, the two seemingly disparate blockbusters surpassed already stratospheric expectations thanks to the cultural phenomenon known as “Barbenheimer.” Hundreds of thousands of cinema-goers booked a double feature for eternity and attended the screenings of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” on the same day.

“This has been a phenomenal experience for people who love movies on the big screen,” said Michael O’Leary, president and CEO of the National Association of Theater Owners, the industry organization. “It was a truly historic weekend. People realized something special was happening and they wanted to be a part of it.”

Barbie also topped the domestic box office with $155 million, beating the 2023 opening weekend record ahead of The Super Mario Bros. Movie ($146 million). Outside of North America, the top markets were the United Kingdom at $22.9 million, Mexico at $22.3 million, Brazil at $15.9 million, Australia at $14.6 million, Spain at $9.9 million, France at $9.8 million and China at $8.2 million.

Warner Bros. and Mattel sponsored the $145 million Barbie, in which Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling play the stereotypical versions of Barbie and Ken. The film, which Gerwig co-wrote with partner Noah Baumbach, captured much of the cultural conversation leading up to its theatrical release. But it broke through by delivering quality that lived up to the hype. Audiences and critics alike loved the film, which is 90% based on Rotten Tomatoes.

Moviegoers responded equally to “Oppenheimer,” which grossed $80.5 million at the domestic box office. That’s a remarkable result for a three-hour play with little action and lots of talk. It underscores Nolan’s status as a rare director who can entice audiences with his name alone.

Besides the US and Canada, the UK (US$9.3 million), India (US$7 million), France (US$6.4 million) and Germany (US$6.4 million) were the highest-revenue territories. Imax screens accounted for $35 million of total ticket sales, including $13.9 million at the international box office – 14.8% of gross overseas sales.

“We believe this is just the beginning of what ‘Oppenheimer’ can achieve at the global box office,” said Rich Gelfond, CEO of Imax.

In the $100 million film Oppenheimer, based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book American Prometheus, Cillian Murphy plays the theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, who led the development of the atomic bomb that ended World War II. Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh and Alden Ehrenreich star.

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