Sorry, "Barbenheimer" Won't Save the Box Office
Blockbusters get people to the cinema, but the long-term trend is set.
On Sunday evening, like every sensible woman in their thirties, I went to see “Barbie”. It’s great, really clever and fun. (You can read my short review here.) I’m sure “Oppenheimer” is great too, but I really cannot face a movie that is three hours long.
As I noted in that review, there is a really fun social element to going to see “Barbie” at the cinema. When we arrived, a group of girls asked my sister and me to take a picture of them posing with the film’s poster. There were pink-clad people milling around inside, the staff were energetic and the whole vibe was really good. The film looked and sounded great on the big screen. I ordered delicious snacks. Basically, it was all the things you like about the cinema experience.
The combined numbers for these two films have been staggering. Barbie generated $162 million and Oppenheimer $82 Million at the box office this weekend, according to The Wakeup. Meanwhile, Variety reported that “Barbie” brought in another $26 million yesterday, making it the biggest Monday for a movie since “The Dark Knight”.
Not surprisingly, given the hype and the cash coming in, there is a growing narrative that Barbenheimer has saved the box office. Per Time Out: “‘Barbenheimer’ may just have saved London’s cinemas.”
It has certainly given them a great weekend and probably a good summer, as well as some cover for a strike-disrupted autumn, but I think this is just a short-term win that cannot offset long-term trends.
There will always be smash hits that get fans to the cinema, but streaming is now the default movie-watching experience. A combination of Covid and squeezed finances has, I think, set things on an irreversible path. There are enough good straight-to-streaming movies available, the services still want to make them, and many people are happy to wait for things to leave the cinema and head to a platform they already have access to.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to The Addition to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.