Two blockbuster films, ‘Barbie’ directed by Greta Gerwig, and ‘Oppenheimer’ directed by Christopher Nolan, were simultaneously released on July 21, 2023. Due to internet sensation, fans began creating memes and content combining both movies. With both films having contrasting themes and genres, it was no waste of time before ‘Barbenheimer’ was coined as the apercu of the two movies.
With the continued domination of social media and news headlines, it’s more evident that this unprecedented event is more than just a fleeting trend. Instead, it’s a testament to the power of storytelling, social media’s influence, and the enduring appeal of the cinematic experience. This analysis will explore the fascinating statistics, trends, and facts surrounding the Barbenheimer phenomenon.
Barbenheimer Key Statistics and Facts
- During the opening weekend, ‘Barbie’ garnered $155 million, while ‘Oppenheimer’ earned $80.5 million, totaling $235.5 million in box office revenue.
- In their second weekend, ‘Barbie’ was set to haul in $93 million in ticket sales, while ‘Oppenheimer’ made $174 million in the U.S. and Canada and $400 million worldwide.
- The Barbenheimer phenomenon contributed to one of the biggest theatrical weekends since the pandemic, with a projected $200+ million weekend at the cinema.
- Over 40,000 people bought tickets to see both movies on the same day, a number that doubled within a week before the release date.
- The first known use of the term ‘Barbenheimer’ was in a Twitter post on April 15, 2022, by Matt Neglia, editor-in-chief of the entertainment awards website Next Best Picture.
- The Barbenheimer sensation stimulated the economy, as Bank of America cardholders increased their non-gasoline spending by 1.9% year over year during the week ending July 22.
- The films have a combined worldwide box office revenue of over $1 billion.
- The phenomenon inspired a new dating trend called the ‘Barbenheimer Effect,’ highlighting the captivating magnetism that occurs when two individuals with contrasting personalities, interests, or backgrounds connect.
- Renowned filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola praised the Barbenheimer trend as a ‘victory for cinema.’
- The Barbenheimer hashtag sporadically trended on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter throughout June and July.
- The success of Barbenheimer was attributed to the anticipation built through meme culture and the internet, making it a must-see event that has revitalized the box office.
The Internet’s Role in Barbenheimer
As it’s clearly everywhere and a popular trend, Barbenheimer has gained many audiences since the first week of its release. It’s true and common knowledge that the world is a small place in the hands of digital. Thanks to the internet for enhancing the popularity of the juxtaposed movies; Barbie and Oppenheimer.
What roles does the internet play in Barbenheimer’s broadcast, and how did it begin? In this section, we will look at each in the subsequent sub-topics.
The Origin of the Term ‘Barbenheimer’
The term ‘Barbenheimer’ originated as an internet phenomenon. This reality is a portmanteau of the titles of two blockbuster films, Barbie and Oppenheimer, both released simultaneously on July 21, 20231.
The first known use of the term was in a Twitter post on April 15, 20221, by Matt Neglia, editor-in-chief of the entertainment awards website Next Best Picture. The post humorously commented on the fact that both films seemed to be constantly announcing new cast members.
The term ‘Barbenheimer’ gained traction in 2023 as internet users noted the juxtaposition of the two films and posted memes on Twitter. The phenomenon has created fan-made merchandise, hashtags, memes, and day-long itineraries to celebrate the occasion.
The Growth of ‘Barbenheimer’ Through Social Media
Social media again does its thing; it grew awareness of the Barbenheimer phenomenon. Through hashtags, memes, and creative fan-made content, social media became the driving force behind the success of this cinematic experiment.
Moreover, the intertwining of social media and film promotion has proven to be a potent force. Social media, especially, is not only capable of generating hype but also shaping the narrative surrounding these movies.
The Barbenheimer craze has led to moviegoers watching both films back-to-back, even if they initially planned to see one or neither. The fear is no one wants to miss out on the fun, as per the impression gotten from social media.
Additionally, experts say the organic social media buzz that developed around both films created an unprecedented box office event, as well as a cultural moment unlike any other. However, the stars featured in both movies amplified people’s enthusiasm to see the two films.
- Hashtags and Trends on Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter
The Barbenheimer phenomenon highlights the power of social media marketing. Here are some highlights from three popular social media platforms:
- On Instagram, the hashtag ‘barbenheimer’ has been used in 68K2 posts featuring photos and videos related to the trend.
- On TikTok, the ‘barbenheimer’ trend has garnered 1.1 billion3 views, with users creating videos related to the meme.
- The hashtag4 has been used on Twitter in various tweets, including those discussing the movies and sharing fan-made content.
Barbenheimer Box Office Performance: The Stats
The Barbenheimer phenomenon is a prime example of how FOMO can contribute to the success of movies at the box office. Here are some vital stats surrounding its release.
- Opening Weekend Box Office Numbers
‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ had a phenomenal opening weekend at the box office. Barbie domestically grossed $155 million, while “Oppenheimer” grossed $80.5 million. This resulted in a combined domestic total of $235.5 million1.
Additionally, this impressive performance contributed to the fourth-largest weekend at the box office in movie history, with a global box office total of $511 million1 for both films.
- Fourth-Largest Weekend at the Box Office in Movie History
The Barbenheimer opening weekend contributed to the fourth-largest weekend at the box office in movie history, with a total of $302 million1 in domestic sales. The top three2 weekends of all time were led by the debuts of sequels in massive franchises, such as ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ and ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens.’
- Second-Weekend Box Office Sales
In its second weekend, Barbie continued to draw audiences, adding an impressive $46 million3 to its domestic box office total. However, specific second-weekend box office numbers for “Oppenheimer” were not provided.
- Combined Sales
As of July 30, 20233, the ‘Barbenheimer’ phenomenon has grossed over $1 billion in just nine days of release worldwide. The combined earning amounted to $1.174 billion. At the global box office, Barbie took the top spot with a total of $774 million, while Oppenheimer crossed the $400 million mark.
The Impact of FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) on the Box Office Success
FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) has had a noticeable impact on the box-office success of certain movies. FOMO has also been linked to social media sharing of movie experiences, with both bridging social capital and FOMO being predictors of post-viewing social media sharing. This sharing contributes to positive box office performance, as social media buzz has become an integral predictor of box office revenues.
In the digital content and streaming services era, FOMO can influence consumers’ decisions to attend movie theaters and keep up with newly released movies and series. This phenomenon can lead to higher spending and a preference for products or services perceived as exclusive or in high demand.
Barbie and Oppenheimer, which generated $244.5 million5 during their first three days in theaters, is an example of box office success. This success was fueled by a sense of urgency and FOMO-driven mania, as the ‘Barbenheimer’ meme took over pop culture consciousness and crossed over into mainstream media.
Barbenheimer in Popular Culture
Since Barbenheimer was coined from the release of Barbie and Oppenheimer on July 21, the term has been applied to various aspects of popular culture, including dating trends, quizzes, and themes of empowerment and self-discovery.
The Barbenheimer Effect Dating Trend
The Barbenheimer Effect dating trend highlights the captivating magnetism that occurs when two individuals with contrasting personalities, interests, or backgrounds connect.
It celebrates the idea that diverse traits can complement and enrich relationships. This can encourage individuals to embrace their uniqueness and explore relationships outside their comfort zones.
Celebrity couples1 such as Kourtney Kardashian and Travis Barker, and Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly have inspired the trend.
Barbenheimer Quiz: Test Your Real History Knowledge
Besides using Barbenheimer as a new dating culture, The Barbenheimer Quiz is a fun way to test your knowledge of the real history behind the Hollywood heavyweights, Barbie and Oppenheimer. The quiz helps determine which movie you should see first based on your historical knowledge.
The reason is that Barbie and Oppenheimer were released on the same day and gained attention. The quiz decides which movie to see first, rather than giving the notion to see one or snub the other. You can find various quiz versions on websites like BuzzFeed and The New York Times.
Emphasis on Empowerment and Self-Discovery
The Barbenheimer phenomenon is not just about two seemingly unrelated characters coming together; it’s about empowerment and self-discovery. These themes resonate strongly with people of all ages, including older adults, who have experienced their journey of growth and transformation throughout their lives.
The Barbenheimer phenomenon transcends age barriers and is a touching tribute to the power of storytelling, nostalgia, and shared values.
Moviegoing Experience and Theater Attendance
The Barbenheimer phenomenon has significantly impacted the moviegoing experience and theater attendance. Check the ‘how’ out below:
Double Feature Mania and Ticket Sales
The double feature mania is a trend of moviegoers purchasing tickets to watch both Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same day, driven by the Barbenheimer phenomenon. According to the National Association of Theatre Owners, over 200,0001 people purchased tickets to see the odd couple as a double feature. This trend not only boosted ticket sales for both movies but also contributed to revitalizing the movie theater experience.
The double feature mania encouraged individuals who may have been inclined to watch only one of the two films to watch the second one due to the influence of friends, family, or partners who wanted to participate in the double feature. This phenomenon also helped bring back the sensation of the movie theater as a semi-sacred public place where people congregate for a shared and transcendent experience.
The Importance to Movie Theater Experience
The Barbenheimer phenomenon has helped theaters’ business. The movies have seen theaters busier than usual, with many people planning to see both films on the same day, back-to-back.
Also, it has been good for business, with some theaters hosting advanced showings of the movies and seeing Barbie and Oppenheimer-themed outfits. This way, it boosts the economy and business in the fabrics industry. Bank of America2 noted an increase in spending at clothing stores during the same week, partially driven by the release of Barbie and Oppenheimer.
The phenomenon has also led to theaters catering to the Barbenheimer trend with double feature tickets and plenty of ‘Barbie’-themed promotions of candy and other items.
Barbenheimer Regional Trends and Preferences
Barbie and Oppenheimer have reignited the public’s love for going to the movies. The regional trends and preferences for these movies vary across different regions in the United States and other countries.
Comparison of Barbie vs. Oppenheimer’s Trendiness in Different Regions
In the United States, Barbie leads in 36 states1, including California, Florida, and New York. In comparison, Oppenheimer holds the lead in 14 states, including Texas, the second most populous state in the country. The Northeastern audiences show a regional trend of opting to see Oppenheimer, while the South and the West Coast prefer Barbie. The Midwest is split between the two movies.
Internationally, Barbie is more popular in countries like Brazil and Venezuela, with a strong preference of 74%1 in favor of the movie. In the UK2, Barbie had a record-breaking opening weekend, making US$16.27 million, while Oppenheimer reported takings of US$9.31 million. In Australia3, both movies broke local cinema records within the first weekend of Barbenheimer’s release.
Poll Results on Movie Preferences
There are no specific poll results for the movies. However, there are online critics of the films, and both have scored well with critics. Below is how they’re rated:
Lessons from Barbenheimer
Below are the highlights from the release of Barbie and Opennheimer, as termed ‘Barbenheimer’.
The Importance of Fresh Storytelling and Diverse Content
Fresh storytelling and diverse content are crucial for engaging audiences and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts.
Diverse voices can explore the complexity of reality and bring authenticity to storytelling. Digital storytelling, in particular, has the potential to transform our well-being and broaden our understanding of the human experience.
By elevating diverse voices and role models, content creators can decrease cultural bias and lead positive social change.
The Potential for Replicating the Barbenheimer Phenomenon in Future Film Rollouts
While the Barbenheimer phenomenon was a unique success, it’s not easily replicable. The triumph of Barbenheimer highlights the integral role community plays in theatrical releases and the power of buzz generated by well-reviewed crowd-pleasers.
The phenomenon also demonstrates the potential of counterprogramming, a marketing strategy where a tonally different film is released on the same day as a major competitor. However, replicating the Barbenheimer phenomenon would require films as distinct from each other as ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ were.
The Barbenheimer phenomenon exhibits the role of internet memes and film hype in uniting people and creating notable cultural events. Besides revitalizing movie-watching, this phenomenon has positively impacted the economy and novel social interaction and dating trends. Despite some regions reporting backlash, the organic expression of fan enthusiasm coupled with consumerism critique through Barbenheimer memes amplified the success of both movies.