“Barbie” came as a full-fledged cultural event, with thousands of moviegoers draped in pink for screenings, doll memes flooding social media, and marketers rushing (sometimes clumsily) to throw themselves into the moment. The audience was 65 percent female. “For a movie this pink, you’d expect the audience to be over 90 percent female — we’ve got a lot of guys,” said Jeff Goldstein, president of domestic distribution at Warner Bros. “It exploded everywhere: big markets, small markets, coast to coast.”
Some theaters seemed to be caught off guard. A high-end theater in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. went all out on promotion, with pink lights to emphasize “Barbie” and a wall of movie posters featuring both movies. But the theater may have misjudged Saturday’s attendance. By the 10 p.m. showing, there were no multiple food items left. It also lacked soft drinks and, amazingly, ice.
Another theater in Arlington, Virginia, had it worse: The air conditioning went out, leading to a sweltering experience. While the theater offered refunds, many ticket buyers remained.
The question now is whether Hollywood can keep up the momentum. Studio executives have long pointed out that going to the cinema is going to the cinema – that the habit of watching movies in the cinema is crucial. In the near future, however, studios are facing a new crisis: A strike by unionized actors, which began on July 14, could force film companies to delay upcoming films because high-profile stars cannot participate in publicity campaigns. “Challengers,” a love triangle sports drama starring Zendaya, has already been pushed from September to April.
No talks are planned between SAG-AFTRA, as the actors’ union is called, and studios.
“Oppenheimer” helped spark “Barbie” and vice versa, with their simultaneous release earning the nickname Barbenheimer and captivating movie fans with their wild incongruity. Nolan’s movie, which cost Universal Pictures at least $100 million to make, not including a megawatt marketing campaign, is a three-hour drama about Robert Oppenheimer, the man known as “the father of the atomic bomb.” According to the National Association of Theater Owners, an industry organization, about 200,000 people bought tickets to see “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” as a double movie.