At a time when the industry is suffering through historic dual strikes by the WGA and SAG-AFTRA, the motion picture industry is poised to see an enormous weekend at the box office with Warner Bros./Mattel’s long awaited toy feature adaptation Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s World War II era three-hour adult drama Oppenheimer reaping a combined $260M+ global start.
Barbie, which has presales far exceeding that of Disney’s Little Mermaid ($95.5M) has a crazy range of projections stateside, from $90M-$125M. Warners is safely calling for $75M at 4,200 theaters, but rivals are confident this doll of a comedy starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling will have gorgeous receipts. Worldwide, Barbie is eyeing around $165M, $60M-$65M from 69 offshore markets including France and Korea among majors on Wednesday, followed by Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia and all of Latin America on Thursday, and then the UK and China on Friday.
Meanwhile, Universal’s first Nolan feature, boldly dated on the same weekend as the toy story from the filmmaker’s former studio, Warner Bros.,is looking at $40M-$50M domestic in 3,600 theaters, with another $45M abroad for a near $100M global start at the high end. If those numbers hit, it’s a mindblowing start for a three-hour talky adult movie.
No Rotten Tomatoes scores have registered yet for either title, but word from key press out of early Oppenheimer screenings is that it’s riveting; easily one of the front-runners this Oscar season.
Many audiences are already planning double features with dinner scheduled in between. No. 1 chain AMC is so excited they’re reporting that 40K-plus of their stubs members have snapped up advance tickets to see both titles on the same day. Stars such as Tom Cruise have declared on social media that it’s a grand weekend for moviegoing with rival studios’ talent are showing mutual love for each other’s fare.
It’s a funky time for the industry: one of battle in the streets and booming at the box office; 2023 already 13% ahead of last year with more than $5 billion. The hope is that SAG-AFTRA and AMPTP come to terms so that the post-pandemic box office doesn’t fly off course and impact the theatrical release calendar and movies’ fall film festival premieres.
In the US/Canada, Barbie will have Wednesday fan previews aka “Barbie Blowout Parties” in 500 locations. Thursday previews at 3,400 sites start at 3PM. She’ll play in Dolby, PLFs, Dine-Ins, and Drive-ins, a total of 9K screens.
Meanwhile, she won’t be making her grand entrance into Japan until Aug. 11 for the Obon holidays, while the Middle East has been pushed back to Aug. 31. The latter would usually indicate some censorship concerns. It has been banned in Vietnam. UK and Australia could excel. Comps here include the recent live-action The Little Mermaid which did $64M in like-for-likes, as well as 2015’s live-action Cinderella ($68M in like-for-likes at today’s rates), 2018’s Mamma Mia!: Here We Go Again ($49M) and even as far back as 2008’s Sex and the City ($38M).
Barbie as IP has resonance in a lot of areas around the world, but kids in Asia did not grow up playing with the doll, we understand. Although the film will release in China this weekend, we have essentially zero expectations for it. What’s more, there are heavyweight local films coming into that market.
Does the Barbenheimer effect help? In general, it’s expected to expand the market and be good news for cinemagoing in general. It may have even given an extra boost to Oppenheimer (which in some ways perhaps may also benefit from being the last movie to hold a red carpet internationally – one that garnered increased attention because the stars left the event as the SAG-AFTRA strike was called).
Barbie has had a strong campaign internationally with positive social reactions and the music and fashion from the film translating overseas. Talent has been out in Australia, Korea, Mexico and London (only missing Berlin because of the strike). The soundtrack, produced by Mark Ronson, and featuring killer singles, including “Dance the Night” by Barbie co-star Dua Lipa, is near 50M views on her YouTube page.
Oppenheimer will have an exclusive three week Imax run, Nolan shooting a combo of pic in the large format’s 65mm and 65mm large-format film photography. Also, for the first time ever, there are sections in Imax black and white analogue photography. Stateside previews start at 5PM Thursday for the Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Robert Downey Jr, Florence Pugh and more ensemble. Murphy plays atomic bomb architect J. Robert Oppenheimer and Blunt as his wife, biologist and botanist Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer. Damon is General Leslie Groves Jr., director of the Manhattan Project, and Downey, Jr. is Lewis Strauss, a founding commissioner of the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
The pic is hitting most majors except for Korea and Italy this weekend. Among Wednesday releases most notably is France where the Nolan movie is expected to excel. Thursday adds Australia, Brazil, Germany, Spain and Mexico, followed by the UK on Friday among majors. We understand that no plans have been finalized for Japan.
The comp here is Dunkirk which debuted to $49.8M in the same markets and at today’s rates. Note that 26% of Dunkirk’s first weekend came from the UK while Oppenheimer will be facing off with Barbie there this session.
Nolan and the Oppenheimer cast premiered the movie in Paris last week, followed by the London event.