In a surprising turn of events, the live-action Barbie movie starring Margot Robbie defeated Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer at the box office. Barbie opened with a massive $162 million, while Oppenheimer opened with a more modest $82.4 million.
Barbie has earned $163 million since its release, destroying Oppenheimer at the box office. Greta Gerwig’s satirical yet heartwarming examination of Mattel’s iconic doll was released on the same day as Christopher Nolan’s gripping biopic of the godfather of the atomic bomb Robert Oppenheimer, with many fans seeing both as a double feature affectionately called “Barbenheimer.”
While both were expected to do well financially at the high point of the summer, Barbie emerged as the clear winner.
There are several reasons why Barbie was able to defeat Oppenheimer.
- Barbie movie has a much broader appeal.
While Oppenheimer is a serious historical drama, Barbie is a more lighthearted and family-friendly film. This made Barbie more appealing to a more comprehensive range of audiences.
- Barbie Is PG-13, Oppenheimer is Rated-R
Barbie risked alienating a certain demographic because it wasn’t marketed as a children’s movie, but its PG-13 rating may have helped Barbie. With an R rating, Oppenheimer would never be considered family-friendly entertainment, with overtly mature themes that might keep younger viewers at home.
Barbie was still suitable for kids and got a much broader demographic because any adult humor was cleverly concealed behind its bubbly aesthetic.
Thanks to its messages of self-actualization, humanism, feminism, and egalitarianism, it prompted some provocative discussions between groups of all ages.
- Oppenheimer had better reviews, but Barbie had the crucial marketing hype
Marketing is an essential tool to get fans hooked on something. Ratings are secondary when the movie has already managed to grab all the attention needed even before the release.
The marketing for Barbie was extensive and all-encompassing, from billboards and Tik-Toks to merchandise like Ken’s “I am Kenough” hoodie. Even though reviews for Oppenheimer were better, there was no escaping Barbie because it was everywhere fans looked, from the real world to every part of the digital space they explored.
It was difficult not to get excited about Barbie, particularly given how engaged stars like Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, and America Ferrera were during promotional interviews.
- Barbie is more prominent as a summer blockbuster than Oppenheimer.
The entire aesthetic of Barbie screams summer, right down to the pink sand on the Malibu beach, making it the perfect summer blockbuster. Chances are audiences were familiar with a Barbie doll even if they’d never played with one, so the Barbie movie had a more expansive brand and franchise appeal.
Not only did fans of the animated Barbie movies go, but anyone who’s played with a Barbie was just curious to see what a live-action Barbie movie would look like or had superhero fatigue.
Oppenheimer had more of a niche appeal. It attracted history buffs, Christopher Nolan fans, and people curious about the stacked cast’s performances, including Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., and Emily Blunt.
As a dense and rich biopic, Oppenheimer is a contemplative experience that seems more suited for Fall or Winter, when long discussions can be had over warm beverages.
- Barbie is an event that encourages costume parties.
With all the marketing hype, seeing Barbie became a huge event that wasn’t to be missed. Entire groups of fans got together wearing Barbie outfits, from slightly suggestive ensembles to all-out cosplays, and there were oceans of pink at theaters showing the movie.
While there might have been groups of people going to Oppenheimer (many of them wearing the same pink outfits), it wasn’t considered the sort of coordinated social meetup that Barbie was.
- People might be more inclined to wait for Oppenheimer for a better experience.
Buzz for Barbie made it seem like a fun trip to the movies for fans, and Oppenheimer fans might have wanted to wait anyway to see it in a specific format.
Barbie could be enjoyed on any screen, whereas Oppenheimer was being pushed as an IMAX experience, with a list of 70mm IMAX theaters showing Oppenheimer, making it a unique (if selective) viewing option. Fans wanting to wait to see Oppenheimer like Christopher Nolan intended might have thought seeing Barbie first was a good idea.
- Barbie’s original story meant audiences had no idea of the plot (Oppenheimer is based on history)
Even though Mattel’s iconic doll is a well-known IP, audiences didn’t know precisely what Barbie would be about, and almost everything included in the trailers was covered in the first 15 minutes of the film.
After that, Barbie told a completely original story with many provocative twists and turns, which forced audiences to see it on opening weekend or risk having the plot spoiled.
By contrast, Oppenheimer was a character study of Robert Oppenheimer, but history books have chronicled the events of his life, so there wasn’t much there that was new.
What does the victory of Barbie mean for the future of Hollywood?
The victory of Barbie over Oppenheimer is a sign of the changing times in Hollywood. In the past, severe historical dramas were often the most successful films at the box office. However, there has been a growing trend towards more lighthearted and family-friendly films in recent years. This trend will likely continue in the years to come as audiences are increasingly looking for movies they can enjoy with their families.
The victory of Barbie also shows that marketing is becoming increasingly important in the success of a film. In the past, a good movie could often succeed on its own merits. However, a film must be marketed effectively in today’s crowded marketplace to reach a large audience.
Finally, Barbie’s victory shows that the brand is still strong after all these years. The Barbie doll has been around for over 60 years, and she is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. This gives Barbie a built-in audience, which will help ensure its success in future years.
The Future of Barbie
The success of the live-action Barbie movie has paved the way for more Barbie films in the future. Warner Bros. has already announced plans for a sequel to Barbie, and there is also talk of a Barbie spin-off film.
The success of Barbie also shows that there is a demand for more female-led films in Hollywood. In the future, we will likely see more movies like Barbie featuring strong female characters.
The success of Barbie is a significant moment for the Barbie brand. It shows that Barbie is still relevant in today’s world and that she can appeal to a wide range of audiences. The future of Barbie looks bright, and we can expect to see more Barbie films in the years to come.
Oppenheimer is a movie written and directed by Christopher Nolan. It’s based on the Pulitzer-winning book ‘American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer’ by the late Martin J. Sherwin and Kai Bird. The movie is produced by Nolan, his wife Emma Thomas and Atlas Entertainment’s Charles Roven.
J. Robert Oppenheimer was a theoretical physicist who is now considered the Father of the Atomic Bomb. He was responsible for the research and development of the first nuclear bombs, later called the Manhattan Project.
The biographical movie by Nolan sees Peaky Blinders’ star Cillian Murphy essaying the lead role of J. Robert Oppenheimer. The movie released in theaters on July 21, 2023.
About Barbie (2023)
Barbie is a 2023 film directed by Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay with Noah Baumbach. It is based on the eponymous fashion doll line by Mattel, and serves as the franchise’s first live-action film adaptation after several computer-animated direct-to-video and streaming television films.
The film stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Barbie and Ken respectively. Barbie released in the United States and United Kingdom on July 21, 2023, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.