"Barbie" has biggest opening day of 2023, "Oppenheimer" not far behind

"Barbie" has biggest opening day of 2023, "Oppenheimer" not far behind

Director Greta Gerwig's all-pink "Barbie" had a glamorous estimated opening day at the box office Friday, bringing in $70.5 million — the biggest opening for any film in 2023 so far.

The massive figure, reported by Variety, beat out June's "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," which made $51.8 million on its opening. The number combines the $22.2 million "Barbie" earned in previews on Thursday, and $42.8 million on Friday, playing in 4,243 theaters.

"Barbie," a Warner Bros. Discovery movie — and Mattel's first foray into the film industry — had an intense marketing campaign leading up to its release — from a real life Barbie Dreamhouse in Malibu, to licensing deals with fast food chains. And based on its box office success, it paid off.

The Grove's theater marquee announcing the opening of
The Grove's theater marquee announcing the opening of

If the film hits its estimated three-day opening weekend total of at least $155 million, per Variety, it would pass "Super Mario Bros." for the biggest debut of 2023. It also has a chance for the biggest-ever opening weekend for a female director.

The all-pink fantasy, which caters to audiences of all ages, stars Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling and Simu Liu — among other big names — and tells the story of Barbie and Ken, who decide they want to see what the real world is like.

The other blockbuster of the summer, Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer," which released the same day as "Barbie," also reeled in big numbers, opening at $33 million. According to Variety, "Oppenheimer" is on track to have one of the highest grossing opening weekends for an R rated film.

"Oppenheimer" — a darker three-hour historical drama about the development of the atomic bomb — stars Cillian Murphy, Florence Pugh, Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt. Though its story is a stark contrast to "Barbie's" cotton candy comedy, it has one thing in common — getting audiences back into theaters for a "summer movie spectacle."

Fans — 200,000 of whom bought advanced tickets to see both movies on the same day according to the National Association of Theater owners — have coined the name "Barbenheimer" to refer to the shared opening day of both.

Since the pandemic began, movie theaters have seen a decline in attendance, and ticket sales haven't quite bounced back — down 20% since 2019, according to data from Comscore.

The summer releases of fan favorite franchises "Indiana Jones" and "Mission Impossible" underperformed, indicating that blockbuster movies may no longer be attracting audiences the way they used to.

Added to the mix — two major Hollywood strikes by writers and actors which has halted scripted production — are set to slow theater traffic even more as studios struggle to create new content.

"Movies don't write themselves. You have to have actors in front of the camera," media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told CBS News. "So this is going to be very important that this gets resolved — the sooner, the better."

And while "Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" have seemed to breathe new life and excitement into Hollywood and movie theaters, with the strikes looming above the industry's head, the big question is, "What's next?"

Michael George contributed to this report. 

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