Cineplex CEO on Barbie release
Thousands of Canadians have bought tickets for ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ double feature screenings as the release date for the hotly anticipated summer blockbusters approaches.
“I think it's going to be kind of bananas, but I'm willing to accept whatever it is,” movie fan Colin Horgan told BNNBloomberg.ca. He has tickets to a Friday afternoon screening of ‘Oppenheimer’ and an evening showing of ‘Barbie’ at the same Toronto movie theatre, with dinner plans in between.
It comes out to a pricey day, but Horgan said it’s worth it for a one-of-a-kind moviegoing experience.
“It’s not a cheap evening, but I've never really done that before,” he said. “It feels like after the pandemic, I don't really go to theatres as much, I might as well just go for it.”
The thematically divergent films – a comedy about the iconic plastic doll and a wartime drama about the man who developed nuclear weapons – are both set for release on Friday, sparking memes from movie lovers pledging to see both films on the same day, regardless of their 295-minute combined runtime.
The online jokes about ‘Barbenheimer’ viewing plans appear to be translating into real ticket sales in Canada and abroad.
“To no surprise, our guests are excited to watch ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ on the big screen,” a Cineplex spokesperson told BNNBloomberg.ca in an email.
Data from Cineplex show that as of Wednesday, close to 345,000 advance tickets had already been sold for both movies.
Of those pre-sale figures, more than 60,000 people bought for both films, and 65 per cent of those people planned to watch both movies on the same day.
The box office battle between the two movies appears to be hot, but ‘Barbie’ is generating slightly more interest, Cineplex said. The films have already generated more than $2.5 million in presales each, with ‘Barbie’ 13 per cent ahead in sales.
The viral ‘Barbenheimer’ sensation comes as movie theatres are still rebounding from the economic impact of pandemic shutdowns, and brace for further challenges in the movie business as Hollywood writers and actors strike against studios over wages and artificial intelligence concerns.
U.K. cinema chain Vue said earlier this month that 19 per cent of people who booked 'Oppenheimer' tickets also bought tickets to 'Barbie,' while the world’s largest movie theatre chain AMC said more than 20,000 members bought tickets to see both on the same day.
Cineplex said last week that its revenues are approaching pre-COVID levels, and the theatre chain is optimistic for summer box office numbers with the ongoing buzz about the two films.
CEO Ellis Jacob told BNN Bloomberg last week he thinks the dual ‘Oppenheimer' and ‘Barbie’ opening offers a “large opportunity for the exhibition business.”
“Our guests are coming back in a big way and they want to see a movie on a big screen,” he said in a television interview.
Horgan said he started planning his joint viewing as soon as he heard about the two films’ shared July 21 release date, and he was pleased to see other people had the same idea.
He’s eager to see the filmmakers’ “two very different perspectives on modern society,” and the viewing order was an important consideration – but starting the day with the more serious ‘Oppenheimer’ and capping the night off with ‘Barbie’ felt right.
“You don't want to finish your day with an atomic bomb,” he said.
Corrin Whiteway of Hamilton has a similar lineup in the works, with plans to see ‘Oppenheimer’ on Saturday afternoon with two friends, followed by ‘Barbie’ as a palate cleanser.
She sees the cost of both tickets as money going towards a memorable evening that will cost about the same as going out for food or drinks.
“Everyone just wants to make that kind of spending special these days,” she said by phone. “This is just a really fun way to hang out with your friends to have an experience. It seems like a worthwhile cost to me.”