Dec 19, 2023 - Business

Highest grossing movies of all time: Where "Barbie" and "Super Mario" rank

Characters race in karts in The Super Mario Bros. movie.

Photo: Nintendo; Illumination Entertainment & Universal Pictures

This year saw a box office top-heavy with nostalgia.

Driving the news: Total worldwide box office earnings for movies in 2023 are approaching $8.5 billion heading into the holiday weekend, up from nearly $7.4 billion in 2022, according to industry tracker Box Office Mojo.

Why it matters: It's the highest yearly box office total since 2019, when pre-pandemic numbers approached $11.4 billion.

By the numbers: The two highest-grossing films of 2023 were "Barbie," which earned more than $1.4 billion, and "The Super Mario Bros. Movie," which earned $1.36 billion.

Between the lines: Just 16% of moviegoers for "The Super Mario Bros." were kids ages 12 and under, meaning nostalgia for the video game franchise that launched in the early 1980s played a key factor.

The intrigue: "Barbie" is based on a brand that launched in 1959 and the film's appeal wasn't just about nostalgia, but also female empowerment.

  • Audiences were more than 66% female with 75% of all moviegoers under the age of 29.
  • "Barbie" was also released the same weekend as "Oppenheimer," the third-highest grossing movie of 2023 at more than $951 million.

The big picture: Despite their success, "Barbie" and "The Super Mario Bros." didn't threaten "Avatar's" reign as the biggest movie of all time with a lifetime gross of more than $2.9 billion.

  • It may be some time before any movie without the name "Avatar" in its title does.

What's next: "Inside Out 2," "Despicable Me 4," "Mufasa: The Lion King" and "Wicked" are among the movies that could approach or surpass the billion-dollar mark in 2024.

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