Weekend Box Office Forecast: BARBIE and OPPENHEIMER Tracking to Combine for Potential $200M+ Opening as ‘Barbenheimer’ Phenom Takes Off

© Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.; © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Barbenheimer” has captured the pop culture zeitgeist, as Barbie and Oppenheimer are set to deliver one of the biggest moviegoing weekends since 2019.

To date, the biggest overall weekend at the box office since 2020 is Spider-Man: No Way Home‘s debut frame in December 2021, which saw the domestic market earn a total of $283 million. Prior to that, theaters posted $263.9 million during The Lion King‘s opening in late July 2019.

Individually, both Barbie and Oppenheimer could be aiming for significant milestones. For Barbie, Greta Gerwig could secure the record of largest opening weekend for a female-directed film. The top three films in that category now are Captain Marvel ($153.4 million, co-directed by Anna Boden and Nia DaCosta alongside Ryan Fleck), Frozen II ($130.3 million, co-directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck), and Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman ($103.3 million).

Meanwhile, Christopher Nolan’s career-best domestic openings outside the Dark Knight franchise are Inception ($62.8 million) and Dunkirk ($50.5 million). Current opening weekend projections for Oppenheimer put the film right in that range.

As the two films, especially Barbie, continue to track above long range expectations in their counter-programming showdown, here’s a rundown of what’s in play for the highly anticipated weekend.


Warner Bros. Pictures

July 21, 2023 (WIDE)

Opening Weekend Range: $140M-$175M


  • Throughout its marketing campaign, Barbie has spurred immense awareness and interest from women of all ages, an audience that has been largely underserved this summer—with the exception of Disney’s The Little mermaid, a domestic box office hit that’s nearing $300 million in total thanks to healthy holding power amid little competition.
  • Pre-sales have blown away all expectations in recent weeks as the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon has taken hold of social media. Independent sales data reflects the meme’s popularity, with Barbie trending more than 200 percent ahead of The Little Mermaid‘s Thursday previews in true admissions, when Wednesday’s “Barbie Blowout Party” screenings at approximately 500 locations are taken into account. Other bullish models have Barbie trending 29 percent ahead of recent Marvel films Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
  • Boxoffice Pro‘s parent company, The Boxoffice Company, reports the film has outpaced all 2023 releases at the same point in the release cycle, making it their top pre-seller since Avatar: The Way of Water.
  • Reviews are very positive for director and co-writer Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of the Mattel toy line with a 90 percent Rotten Tomatoes score from 138 critics. If audience reception is comparable, Barbie could avoid a sharply frontloaded run.


  • Although the film is gaining scattered showtimes where possible (particularly in Dolby Cinema), Barbie will be missing a large portion of the typical premium screen footprint that accompanies most major studio tentpole releases due to Oppenheimer exclusively holding IMAX as well as many showtimes in other formats. That creates significant volatility in the floor and ceiling of forecasts. (Notably, Warner Bros. is cautiously expecting $75 million for Barbie‘s opening.)
  • Reviews are pointing to Barbie‘s appeal as a satirical comedy, which is likely to narrow its target audience to young adults and older moviegoers rather than the kid- and parent-friendly demographics that drove The Super Mario Bros. Movie earlier this year.


Universal Pictures

July 21, 2023 (WIDE)

Opening Weekend Range: $52M-$72M


  • Christopher Nolan’s reputation as a pioneer of modern spectacle cinema driven by strong narratives with wide audience appeal is a major driving force behind his latest original film. Another factor driving admissions is Nolan’s loyal fan base, which has expanded since the release of The Dark Knight trilogy and Inception.
  • Perhaps as a partial consequence of the “Barbenheimer” phenom, Oppenheimer pre-sales across sample regions have exceeded even optimistic expectations, with independent tracking sources putting the film at least 73 percent ahead of the pace of Dune and slightly ahead of John Wick: Chapter 4 when adjusting for Oppenheimer‘s large premium screen demand.
  • Adjacent to pre-sales trends, double feature screenings are being planned by more than 200,000 moviegoers, according to a report from the National Association of Theatre Owners. This may be working to increase Oppenheimer‘s already high profile among segments of the younger Barbie audience that may not have otherwise turned out for the Universal release on opening weekend.
  • Oppenheimer‘s initial wave of reviews are incredibly positive, standing at 95 percent fresh from 98 critics. The film is widely considered to be an early award season candidate with strong adult appeal that could drive box office through the rest of summer.


  • With preview show demand adjustment in mind, audiences seem to be favoring PLF for their viewing of Oppenheimer. That could create a more backloaded run in the grand scheme of things—which would be a positive development, even though it increases volatility and lowers the ceiling for opening weekend projections in the event that walk-up sales outside major cities don’t end up as robust as is typical for other films.
  • As a three-hour, R-rated film, the film may be stepping outside some of Nolan’s audience wheelhouse and skewing appeal more toward metro regions.

Current projection ranges call for a 97% to 127% increase from last weekend’s $134.2 million top ten aggregate.

Film Studio 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, July 23 Fri Location Count Projection (as of Wed) 3-Day % Change from Last Wknd
Barbie Warner Bros. Pictures $158,500,000 $158,500,000 ~4,200 NEW
Oppenheimer Universal Pictures $64,700,000 $64,700,000 ~3,600 NEW
Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One Paramount Pictures $25,800,000 $125,900,000 ~4,200 -53%
Sound of Freedom Angel Studios $21,100,000 $126,000,000 ~3,100 -23%
Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny Disney / Lucasfilm $7,400,000 $159,800,000 ~2,700 -40%
Elemental Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar $6,800,000 $138,100,000 ~2,700 -25%
Insidious: The Red Door Sony Pictures / Screen Gems $6,500,000 $71,600,000 ~2,500 -50%
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse Sony / Columbia Pictures $3,700,000 $376,000,000 ~1,900 -39%
Transformers: Rise of the Beasts Paramount Pictures $1,500,000 $156,100,000 ~900 -56%
No Hard Feelings Sony / Columbia Pictures $1,400,000 $49,600,000 ~1,000 -57%
The Little Mermaid (2023) Walt Disney Pictures     ~800  

All forecasts are subject to revision/finalization before the first confirmation of opening previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.

Theater counts are either studio estimates OR unofficial projections if preceded by “~”.

The above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.

© Universal Pictures. All Rights Reserved.; © 2022 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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