cnn.com – By Oliver Darcy – Are you going to a double feature of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” this weekend? If so, you’re far from alone.
The “Barbenheimer” craze, which has swelled in popularity over the last few weeks, is all but set to propel the box office to its best weekend in years. BoxOffice Pro, a publication that tracks box office performance, said this week it is projecting a $200+ million weekend at the cinema. That would result in one of the biggest theatrical weekends since the pandemic upended the industry and a big win for Hollywood while writers and actors are on strike. With production at a standstill, it could be the last big blockbuster weekend for quite some time.
The battle of the bombshells playing out in theaters is not the usual runaway box office success story. It is the effect of a viral internet sensation that has flooded social media feeds with jokes and parodies about the opposing films and now looks set to meme its way to record theatrical attendance.
“The anticipation we’re seeing for these two movies is unprecedented, as people are thrilled to go to the theatre and be a part of an exciting cultural event,” Michael O’Leary, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners told CNN. “But it’s not just about the first three days of the box office either. These films will continue to draw fans for weeks to come.”
To be clear, both Warner Bros. Pictures’ Mattel flick (Warner Bros. is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, which is also CNN’s parent company) and Universal’s bio-epic from Christopher Nolan were always projected to do well in their own respective rights. There has been, for some time, high interest around both of the films. Rolled up together, however, they are projected to deliver an even more powerful jolt to the theater industry. The memes are, in effect, juicing attendance.
“This is truly one of the wildest and most unpredictable situations I’ve ever observed at the box office,” Shawn Robbins, chief analyst at BoxOffice Pro, told me Thursday. “‘Oppenheimer’ and ‘Barbie’ were both destined for probable success on their own terms, but capturing the social media zeitgeist has escalated the phenomenon into what feels like will be one of the biggest moviegoing weekends since 2019. Even those who don’t regularly patron cinemas are aware of ‘Barbenheimer.’ You can’t easily buy that kind of promotion, if at all.”