Barbenheimer: Ticket sales soar past projections in record-breaking weekend for cinema

ITV News Correspondent Sally Biddulph reports on the biggest weekend in cinema in years

Barbenheimer has officially spun box office gold.

The cinematic phenomenon, combining Greta Gerwig's hot pink comedy and Christopher Nolan's sinister biopic, brought moviegoers back to the cinema in record numbers this weekend.

Both vastly outperformed their projections - in Britain, the spectacle prompted the biggest weekend for cinema-going since 2019, according to the UK Cinema Association.

The industry body said the two films generated almost £30 million at the UK box office.

Cinema chain Vue said a fifth of its customers had purchased tickets to see both films in a double bill, while more than 2,000 of Vue’s Barbie screenings were sold out, according to the company.

Internationally, Warner Brothers' Barbie earned $182 million (£141m) from 69 territories, fueling an enormous $337 million (£262m) global weekend.

Meanwhile, Universal's Oppenheimer raked in $93.7 million (£72.8m) from 78 territories, ranking above Barbie in India, for a $174.2 (£135m) million global total.

Barbie claimed the top spot with $155 million (£120m) in ticket sales across North American cinemas, but Oppenheimer also soared past expectations, with $80.5 million (£62.5m) in the US and Canada, making it Nolan's biggest non-Batman debut.

It marks the biggest opening of 2023 so far - surpassing The Super Mario Bros. Movie and Marvel Cinematic Universe instalments - and breaks the first weekend record for a film directed by a woman.

It’s also the first time one film opened to more than $100 million (£77.6m) and another movie opened to more than $80 million (£62m) in the same weekend.

When all is settled, it will likely turn out to be the fourth biggest box office weekend of all time with over $300 million (£233m) industrywide.

The biggest box office opening weekend to date is when the star-studded Avengers: Endgame released in 2019 as part of a thrilling MCU two-parter.

The Barbenheimer phenomenon may have started out as good-natured competition between two aesthetic opposites, but, as many hoped, both films benefitted in the end.

The only real casualty was Tom Cruise's Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part I, which despite strong reviews and a healthy opening weekend fell 64% in weekend two, overshadowed by the Barbenheimer glow.

Many fans opted for a double-feature. Credit: AP

Generally, the audiences were distinct - women drove the historic Barbie opening, reportedly making up 65% of the audience, and 40% of ticket buyers were under the age of 25.

“It’s just a joyous time in the world... This is history in so many ways," said Jeff Goldstein, Warner Bros.' president of domestic distribution.

“I think this marketing campaign is one for the ages that people will be talking about forever.”

Oppenheimer audiences were 62% male and 63% over the age of 25, with 32% between the ages of 18 and 24.

Both have received applause from critics, and social media has been awash with reactions and “takes” all weekend – good, bad, and everywhere in between.

“The ‘Barbenheimer’ thing was a real boost for both movies,” Mr Goldstein said.

“It is a crowning achievement for all of us.”

Oppenheimer had the vast majority (80%) of premium large format screens at its disposal.

Some 25 cinemas in North America boasted IMAX 70mm screenings (Nolan’s preferred format), most of which were completely sold out all weekend accounting for 2% of the total gross.

“This is a phenomenon beyond compare,” said Rich Gelfond, the CEO of IMAX, in a statement.

It's the comeback weekend Hollywood has been dreaming of since the pandemic.

There have been big openings and successes like Spider-Man: No Way Home, Top Gun: Maverick, and Avatar: The Way of Water, but two at the same time is almost unprecedented.

And it all takes place while the rest of Hollywood - actors and writers - strike across the US, over concerns with studios and streaming services surrounding pay and the use of artificial intelligence (AI).

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