Tickled pink: How Barbie became the talk of the town

Barbie came out on Friday. Credit: AP

By ITV News Multimedia Producer Connor Parker

Despite competition from Indian Jones, Mission Impossible, and several Marvel blockbusters, the Barbie movie has been billed as the film to save cinema.

Barbie, fronted by Margot Robbie in the eponymous role alongside Ryan Gosling as Ken, came out in cinemas on Friday to glowing reviews and a pre-booking frenzy.

The movie is packed full of Hollywood A-listers, and features songs from Lizzo, Charli XCX, Nicki Minaj, Sam Smith and Billie Eilish.

The marketing for Barbie was widespread, from celebrities and influencers posing in fake doll boxes on social media, to early photo leaks capturing Robbie and Gosling on the set so vivid it reportedly sparked a pink paint shortage.

Barbie and Oppenheimer are the biggest releases of the year. Credit: AP

Speculation has built Barbie and box office opposite Oppenheimer could deliver enough hype to 'save cinema' in the streaming age, spawning the 'Barbenheimer' phenomenon.

Big screen box office takinhs are still up to a quarter below the industry's pre-pandemic peak.With many productions disrupted or outright cancelled by Covid, attracting people off the comfort of their couches and into the cinema has proven difficult.

But despite massively successful franchises like Indiana Jones and Mission Impossible getting new releases this year, it's the first entry of a film about a children's toy that cinemas and analysts have been betting on to help save the box office.

Alongside Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer, this opening weekend has been called Cinema's biggest of the year.

Why are experts calling Barbie cinema's saviour?

Brand and culture expert Nick Ede told ITV News the reason Barbie has gained so much traction is because it has been "cleverly marketed in such a strong way."

"Everywhere you live and breath there's Barbie."

He's not wrong, on top of the social media posts and doll boxes Barbie has partnered with several major brands to get film-related products on the market.

The campaign has been worldwide, with Britain briefly playing host to a pink Tardis, in a nod to Ncuti Gatwa starring in both Barbie and Doctor Who.

Brand and PR expert Paul MacKenzie-Cummins told ITV News: "From the hijacking of London underground station names (‘Barbie-can’) to the brilliant way in which ‘Barbie movie’ appears in the results page on Google) and everything in between, the promotion behind the release of Barbie and the media attention afforded to it has been quite phenomenal."

Primark has a new 'Barbie-core' range, you can buy branded Barbie suitcases, and a Barbie burger featuring pink ketchup even hit menus in Brazil.

Mr Ede said: "It is one of the most sophisticated and clever branding exercises any movie has done, it goes beyond stuff like Star Wars.

"They've touched every touch point, they've done graffiti, they've done houses, magazines, social media, tv, everything."

Mattel, which owns the Barbie brand, has used the film as a chance to refresh the brand and move away from the controversies of its past.

Jo Ashdown, a partner at Mando-Connect, a brand partnership agency said: "I don't think we've ever seen this many brand partnerships coming out of one film."Zara launched a collection of more than 100 items this week, nearly all of them pink.

Mr Ede pointed to the skill of the marketing campaign as to why the film has not alienated any group.

He said all films attract some criticism and the Barbie brand has fielded plenty of backlash in recent years about how it depicts women. But those behind the film have navigated it expertly.

Mr Ede said the marketing and clips shown around Gosling's Ken made the film appeal to men.

The subtle nods to the variety of roles taken up by Barbie in the film, and the teaser trailer showing a young girl smashing up her dolls, suggested to audience Greta Gerwig's Barbie would be a self-aware production- ready to shake up Barbie stereotypes.

He also noted how so little of the plot had been revealed so critics of the brand had very little to go on to attack the film before it was released.

The film has received generally glowing reviews that have praised how it navigates sexism and misogyny in both the Barbie-scape, and in modern society.

The film is being backed by a massive amount of retail partnerships. Credit: AP

Mr Ede also highlighted the film's casting, with actors from a variety of ethnic backgrounds all appearing as a different version of Barbie or Ken. The casting also directly confronted the sexism, size-ism and racism levelled at the Barbie brand.

"It's probably become the most inclusive movie of all time," Mr Ede said.

The film came out on July 21 and cinemas are already reporting massive sales.

Odeon said it expected one million visitors over the weekend with more than 200,00 tickets pre-booked for either Barbie or Oppenheimer.

Mr MacKenzie-Cummins said: Success at the box office for Barbie and Mattel is a shoo-in, and I believe it will prove to be a springboard for other such franchises to follow suit.

"This feels less like a moment and more the beginning of a new movement for cinema that will run for some time. Those that do especially well will be reprised in a series of sequels á la Transformers."Mr Ede added: "We're so used to cinemas not being packed out now - but now they're going to be full."

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