Being Indian film fanatics, it is common for us to witness two big films going head to head against each other at the box office. It was just recently when two tentpole blockbuster films, Gadar 2 and Oh My God 2 clashed at the box office with both emerging as successes. However, this phenomenon is quite a rarity in the West. Major Hollywood studios do not shy away from shuffling release dates to avoid clashing with other major films. As a result, audiences are yet to witness both DC and Marvel Studios releasing their major films on the same day. While DC and Marvel are juggernaut IPs which generate billions in revenue, studios do not generally pitch even their non-superhero blockbusters against each other. Well, that was until July 2023 when the landscape of blockbuster cinema was changed forever with Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer!
The summer of 2023 at the cinema was a lacklustre season where films tanked left and right. Major blockbuster franchise films failed to impress the audiences. Be it Vin Diesel’s family affair with Fast X, DC’s self-proclaimed cinematic pinnacle The Flash, or Harrison Ford’s return as the iconic Indiana Jones, nothing made a major mark at the domestic box office. To save grace, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3 and Across the Spider-Verse did perform well at the box office saving Hollywood from a total downfall. However, nobody expected the storm which was brewing up in the form of Oppenheimer and Barbie.
Nolan’s highly anticipated biopic of Robert J Oppenheimer was a topic of interest amongst moviegoers ever since its announcement. To add fuel to the fire, the news of the director blowing up actual bombs to capture the true essence of an atomic explosion took the hype of the film to the next level.
On the other hand, we had pop-culture darlings Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling taking over the roles of Barbie and Ken. The first teaser of Barbie recreated the iconic opening scene from 2001:A Space Odyssey which intrigued audience members. The teaser was followed by a peppy trailer and a massive promotional campaign where it felt like the entire USA was painted pink.
The equal anticipation around these films coined the term ‘Barbenheimer’
Whenever two films release on the same day, audiences are usually divided between the two. It is always “Which one will you watch?” and never “Which one will you watch first?” which was the case for Barbie and Oppenheimer. It was a celebration for true cine fans for whom July 21st became the day of the ‘Barbenheimer’ double feature. I and many film-loving people like me spend their entire day at the cinema watching the two films back to back.
Barbenheimer was all over the internet with fans celebrating Barbie wearing pink and having a change of clothes to a black outfit and walking straight in to watch Oppenheimer. Both films were loved by critics and audiences alike which led to box office history.
The opening weekends of Barbie and Oppenheimer collectively brought in $244.5 million. While Barbie brought in a massive $162 million, Oppenheimer scored $82.5 million. This was the first time since the pandemic that the box office witnessed such humongous numbers at the domestic level. At the time of writing, Barbie stands at $1 billion at the global box office, whereas, Oppenheimer stands at $600 million.
Barbie has gone on to create history at the box office making Greta Gerwig the first woman to have a sole directing credit on a billion-dollar film. On the other hand, Christopher Nolan successfully managed to depict the horrors humans are capable of causing in a twisted tale which was widely accepted around the world. India showed more love to Oppenheimer than Barbie where the film has garnered a massive 117 crore box office at the time of writing. If films like Barbie and Oppenheimer continue to shine at the box office, then there won’t be any doubts about the cinema business going anywhere!