The incongruous duo of “Barbie,” a hot-pink comedic romp, and “Oppenheimer,” a brooding period drama, combined to sell far more movie tickets than expected over the weekend, pushing the overall domestic box office to $312 million, according to the latest estimates, which could change when the final tally is published later on Monday. Already, it was the biggest weekend haul in North America since 2019, and the fourth-largest ever, before adjusting for inflation.
It is a sign that Hollywood has, maybe, finally bounced back from the pandemic. (Whether the film business, which is dealing with dual writers’ and actors’ strikes, can keep the momentum going is another question.)
The weekend was also noteworthy for its variety, with “Barbie” collecting $162 million, “Oppenheimer” $82.4 million and the rest of the features, including “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One” and “Sound of Freedom,” adding nearly $70 million.
Typically, the biggest weekends for domestic ticket sales have been dominated by a single blockbuster. During the highest grossing weekend, in April 2019, “Avengers: Endgame” accounted for nearly 90 percent of the box office. “Barbie,” by comparison, accounted for just over half of the box office over the weekend.
The jarring juxtaposition of a comedy based on a children’s toy and an R-rated biopic about the “father of the atomic bomb” was embraced by some 200,000 theater goers during opening weekend, who bought tickets for the double feature nicknamed “Barbenheimer” (run time: just under five hours).
For cinema owners, packed houses across the country suggested that people were primed to go to theaters and watch more varied movies. The audience was about 60 percent female for “Barbie” and 60 percent male for “Oppenheimer,” meaning each had a broader appeal than many initially anticipated.
Brooks Barnes and Christine Zhang contributed reporting.