‘Barbenheimer’ Tops Global Box Office With Explosive US$511 Million Opening Haul, Beating Expectations

Barbenheimer has done it. The Barbie and Oppenheimer double feature, which started out as a meme, is living up to its status as a cultural phenomenon, blowing up the global box office with a US$337 million and US$174 million opening haul respectively.

Barbenheimer Box Office

The collective earnings mark the fourth-biggest overall weekend in history, joining the likes of Avengers: Endgame, Avengers: Infinity War, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. More notably, Barbenheimer is the only non-sequel entry on the list, as the three other movies are part of a massive franchise.

It’s a much needed revitalisation for a largely underwhelming summer movie season, with both films performing better than original projections. In the U.S., Barbie earned US$155 million to land the biggest debut of the year, while Oppenheimer raked in US$80.5 million.

“We have a pink unicorn here,” says Jeff Goldstein, the president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. “We thought it would be US$75 million for the opening weekend. Nobody saw US$155 million coming. This doll has long legs.”

Meanwhile, Universal expected an US$50 million opening for Christopher Nolan’s feature, which already would have been notable given its grim subject matter and style. “This is a 1940s period piece,” says Universal’s president of domestic distribution Jim Orr. “That speaks volumes to the appeal of Nolan and his prowess as a filmmaker. He has an amazing reputation for storytelling in the biggest format possible.”

In Singapore, the biographical thriller beat Avengers: Endgame to become the biggest four-day IMAX opening of all time, grossing over S$1.09 million (US$820,000) at the box office. This also surpasses the four-day opening of Nolan’s recent works, 2017’s Dunkirk and 2020’s Tenet, by 36 percent and 56 percent respectively.

Barbenheimer Box Office (2)

Adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “American Prometheus,” Oppenheimer follows theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his involvement in the top-secret Manhattan Project. It stars Cillian Murphy as the main lead, alongside an ensemble of Robert Downey Jr., Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Florence Pugh and Alden Ehrenreich.

Rounding out the double victory is another record-breaking milestone for Barbie. The neon-coated fantasy comedy scored the biggest opening weekend ever for a movie directed by a woman, beating out 2019’s Captain Marvel. Oscar-nominated director Gerta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Little Women) co-wrote the screenplay with her partner Noah Baumbach.

Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling star as the stereotypical versions of Barbie and Ken, who leave behind the Dreamhouse on a quest for self-discovery in the real world. Additional cast include Issa Rae, Dua Lipa, Simu Liu, Michael Cera, Helen Mirren, John Cena, and Will Ferrell.