Jul 14, 2023 - Economy

Barbenheimer fever takes over

The Barbie and Oppenheimer posters

Photos: Warner Bros., Universal Pictures

Two summer blockbusters, Barbie and Oppenheimer, opening Friday have spurred a cultural phenomenon that has taken the internet by storm — Barbenheimer.

Why it matters: As theatrical releases have struggled to recover from the pandemic, the double release could be the last big summer blowout at the box office as the Hollywood strikes take hold.

The big picture: Moviegoers and theaters across the country are making an event out of the highly anticipated releases, with thousands of people planning to see the wildly different films on the same day.

By the numbers: Barbie, the hot-pink comedy directed by Greta Gerwig based on the doll created by Ruth Handler, is projected to rake in more than $100 million on its July 21st opening weekend.

  • Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer — a much longer and darker film — is slated to earn $45 million at the box office, Puck News reported.
  • AMC previously said that 20,000 of its insider rewards members are planning to see both movies opening weekend.
  • Theaters around the country — including in Washington, D.C., and San Antonio — are selling out of tickets, while a theater in Columbus is hosting a Barbenheimer premiere night party.

What they're saying: Landmark Theatres has seen high interest in both movies, with "really extraordinary" interest in Barbie, Mark Mulcahy, head of brand marketing, told Axios.

State of play: Excitement for the films has spread all over the internet, spurring endless viral memes, "Barbiecore" fashion, and even a Barbie-themed cafe.

  • Vendors and social media mavens have created mash ups, from Barbenheimer t-shirts to movie posters.
  • United Talent Agency IQ found two-thirds of millennials and Gen Z who say they're interested in seeing Barbie cited memes as the reason why.

The grip of Barbenheimer extends far beyond the U.S., too.

  • Vue, one of the biggest movie chains in the U.K., said 19% of people who secured tickets for Oppenheimer also booked tickets for Barbie, Bloomberg reported.

The bottom line: Both films have benefited from extensive promotional campaigns, but the same won't be true for movies coming down the pipeline.

  • With actors on strike, the movies won't be able to rely on them for red carpets or press.
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