Breaking Down Its $163M Win

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Warning: This article contains spoilers for the Barbie movie!

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Summary

  • Barbie exceeded box office expectations, earning $163 million and surpassing Oppenheimer. The film’s wide demographic appeal and clever marketing contributed to its success.
  • Barbie’s PG-13 rating made it suitable for kids while also attracting adult viewers. Oppenheimer’s R rating limited its audience, as it dealt with mature themes.
  • Barbie’s shorter runtime allowed for more showings and better box office performance. The film’s summer blockbuster aesthetic and extensive marketing added to its overall appeal.

Barbie has earned $163 million dollars since its release, completely destroying Oppenheimer at the box office. Greta Gerwig’s satirical yet heartwarming examination of Mattel’s iconic doll was released on the same day as Christopher Nolan’s gripping biopic of the godfather of the atomic bomb Robert Oppenheimer, with many fans seeing both as a double-feature affectionately called “Barbenheimer.” While both were expected to do well financially at the high point of the summer, Barbie emerged as the clear victor of the two highly-anticipated films.

Based on some of the poor openings for its other releases, Warner Bros. conservatively projected Barbie would garner $75 million in box office sales, but it made twice that amount in its first three days. Barbenheimer broke box office records and probably helped both films get more views than they might otherwise have on their own, but it was more than the pop-cultural cache that helped Barbie. From marketing hype and brand recognition to its PG-13 rating, there were a lot of reasons Barbie made its production budget back so quickly, and moviegoers were the real winners with so much to enjoy.

10 Barbie Is PG-13, Oppenheimer Is Rated-R

Barbie Teaser Trailer With Gigantic Barbie

Barbie risked alienating a certain demographic because it wasn’t marketed as a children’s movie, but its PG-13 rating may have actually helped Barbie. With an R rating, Oppenheimer was never going to be considered family-friendly entertainment, with overtly mature themes that might keep younger viewers at home. Barbie was still suitable for kids and got a much wider demographic because any adult humor was cleverly concealed behind its bubbly aesthetic, and thanks to its messages of self-actualization, humanism, feminism, and egalitarianism, it ended up prompting some provocative discussions between groups of all ages, from fans who remembered playing with Barbie when she debuted in 1959 to fans who still play with her today.

9 Barbie’s Runtime Allowed For More Showings Than Oppenheimer

ken barbie movie

At less than two hours long, Barbie had a runtime that fans could tolerate, particularly if they were on the younger side. At three hours long, Oppenheimer’s runtime required some serious dedication and wasn’t going to be a good fit for all attention spans. The fact that it was shorter than Oppenheimer also allowed Barbie to have a lot more showings at more theaters, which translated to more ticket sales and Barbie breaking box office records.

8 Oppenheimer Had Better Reviews, But Barbie Had More Marketing Hype

Barbie I Am Kenough Hoodie

The marketing for Barbie was extensive and all-encompassing, from billboards and Tik-Toks to merchandise like Ken’s “I am Kenough” hoodie. Even though reviews for Oppenheimer were better to begin with, there was no escaping Barbie because it was everywhere fans looked, from the real world to every part of the digital space they explored. It was difficult not to get excited about Barbie, particularly given how engaged stars like Margot Robbie, Ryan Gosling, and America Ferrera were during promotional interviews.

RELATED: Where To Buy Barbie’s I am Kenough Hoodie (Is There An Official One?)

7 Barbie Is More Obvious As A Summer Blockbuster Than Oppenheimer

Barbie looks out over Barbieland in Barbie (2023)

The entire aesthetic of Barbie screams summer, right down to the pink sand on the Malibu beach, making it the perfect summer blockbuster. As a dense and rich biopic Oppenheimer is a contemplative experience that seems more suited for Fall or Winter, when long discussions can be had over warm beverages. While Barbie subverts expectations with a certain amount of cerebral components amidst all of its pastel and plastic art direction, it still has an over-the-top blockbuster vibe.

6 People Might Be More Inclined To Wait For Oppenheimer (Especially In IMAX)

Ryan-Gosling-as-Ken-in-Barbie-movie

Buzz for Barbie not only made it seem like a fun trip to the movies for fans, but Oppenheimer fans might have wanted to wait anyway to see it on a specific format. Barbie could be enjoyed on any type of screen, whereas Oppenheimer was being pushed as an IMAX experience, with a list of 70mm IMAX theaters showing Oppenheimer making it a unique (if selective) viewing option. Fans wanting to wait to see Oppenheimer the way Christopher Nolan intended might have thought that seeing Barbie first was a good idea.

5 Barbie Is An Event That Encourages Groups & Costumes

Margot Robbie and the Barbie movie cast

With all the marketing hype, seeing Barbie became a huge event that wasn’t to be missed. Entire groups of fans got together wearing Barbie outfits, from slightly suggestive ensembles to all-out cosplays, and there were oceans of pink at theaters showing the movie. While there might have been groups of people going to Oppenheimer (many of them wearing the same pink outfits), it wasn’t considered the same sort of coordinated social meetup that Barbie was.

4 Barbie Is A Comedy, Oppenheimer Is A Drama

Ken and Barbie spinning through the air in a car in the Barbie movie

Barbie definitely has some important messages to share, but they’re sprinkled throughout a light-hearted, raucous comedy, which is why they work. Oppenheimer is a drama that barely releases tension over three hours and explores heavy emotions like guilt, shame, and mortality. Walking out of the theater, it’s clear that Barbie’s levity, such as during the “Kenergy” musical sequence, or anytime Weird Barbie and Allan are on-screen, helps to make even its more existential themes resonate while still keeping the positive vibe.

3 Barbie Has A Wider Brand & Familiar Franchise Appeal

Margot Robbie as Barbie in her car in the Barbie movie.

Chances are audiences were familiar with a Barbie doll even if they’d never played with one, so the Barbie movie had wider brand and franchise appeal. Not only did fans of the animated Barbie movies go, but anyone who’s played with a Barbie, was just curious to see what a live-action Barbie movie would look like, or had superhero fatigue. Oppenheimer had more of a niche appeal and attracted history buffs, Christopher Nolan fans, and people curious about the performances of the stacked cast, which included Cillian Murphy, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., and Emily Blunt.

2 Barbie’s Incredible Screenplay Gave It Great Word Of Mouth

Ryan Gosling as Ken and Simu Liu as Ken with Sparkles Exploding Between Them in the Barbie Movie

Noah Baumbach has been receiving accolades for years with hits like Marriage Story, and Greta Gerwig has had a meteoric rise herself with two Oscar nominations for Best Screenplay and Best Director already in her relatively short career, but fans still weren’t prepared for Barbie’s incredible screenplay. Fans expecting the movie to be fun entertainment fluff, or even to downright hate it, walked out of theaters concluding that it was better than they thought. Barbie had many empowering moments as Barbie and Ken went on journeys of self-discovery in the Real World, and learned about where they fit into Barbieland and each other’s lives, all wrapped up in a pink plastic aesthetic.

1 Barbie’s Original Story Meant Audiences Needed To Avoid Spoilers (But Oppenheimer Is Based On History)

Barbie showing her flat feet in Barbie

Even though Mattel’s iconic doll is a well-known IP, audiences didn’t know exactly what Barbie was going to be about, and almost everything included in the trailers was covered in the first 15 minutes of the film. After that, Barbie told a completely original story with a lot of subversive twists and turns, which forced audiences to go see it opening weekend or else risk having the plot spoiled. By contrast, Oppenheimer was a character study of Robert Oppenheimer, but the events of his life have been chronicled by history books, so there wasn’t much there that was new.