Cineplex CEO on Barbie release
Barbenheimer isn’t just a meme. There’s plenty of evidence that people around the globe are making plans to see two of the most-anticipated movies of the summer—which happen to be stark contrasts of each other—on the same day.
U.K. cinema chain Vue says that as of Tuesday, 19 per cent of people who booked tickets to see Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer also bought tickets for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie.
“We’ve put on as many screenings as possible of both films to accommodate high demand,” says Rob Lea, head of screen content for U.K. & Ireland at Vue, one of the U.K.’s largest cinema chains with more than 870 screens.
AMC Inc., the world’s largest movie chain, says more than 20,000 of its AMC stubs members have already booked Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same day.
“The growing online conversation around seeing both of these incredible films is turning into ticket sales,” Elizabeth Frank, executive vice president of worldwide programming and chief content officer at AMC Theatres, said in a statement. More sales are likely ahead of the July 21 releases, she said.
Barbie is tracking to sell more tickets overall, with low-end estimates from Box Office Pro. showing at least a US$85 million opening weekend for the pop delight, compared with $45 million for Oppenheimer.
Alamo Drafthouse, the U.S. cinema chain known for serving dinner and drinks during its films, is seeing demand for “Barbenheimer” in its private events business, which rents out screens for corporate events and private gatherings like birthday parties.
“The requests to hire out spaces for Barbie and Oppenheimer double-bills have been coming in for months,” says Nick Isani, private-event sales manager for the East Coast at Alamo Drafthouse. He says there has been a “significant number” of requests to program both films for private events like parties, and that it is unique to receive requests for a double-bill on films seemingly so different.
A film about the bomb and another about a bombshell don’t make for the most obvious double-feature. Nolan’s Oppenheimer is an R-rated, three-hour dramatic epic, while Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is a fantastic, plastic PG-13 comedy that runs just under two hours. But ever since the announcement that both films would be released on the same day, the pairing has been a big internet joke—manifesting in memes and merchandise.
“The excitement around Barbie and Oppenheimer is something to celebrate,” says critic Hanna Flint, author of Strong Female Character: What Movies Teach Us. She says the buzz is down to the strength of the filmmakers and casts involved, and says it is notable that people are dedicating an entire day to two movies in an era where people complain about films being too long, or say they would rather binge a TV series than watch a film.
Flint is seeing the films early at press screenings, but she says if she were to do a double feature, she’d watch Oppenheimer first then Barbie as a “dessert” to finish the day.
“My advice would be for people to go see both, on the same day,” Oppenheimer leading man Cillian Murphy told Spanish publication La Vanguardia. “If they are good films, then cinema wins.”
Cinema could use a win. It’s been a tough summer for the film industry, which may be relying on Barbie, Oppenheimer and Tom Cruise’s latest Mission Impossible film to save the box office.