‘Barbenheimer’ a cultural phenomenon for the post-pandemic era

‘Barbenheimer’ a cultural phenomenon for the post-pandemic era

So if you are a cinema buff, you most certainly did see Barbie and Oppenheimer over the weekend.

This cultural phenomenon was at first fuelled by the Directors of both films – Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan — endorsing each others’ films to coin the movie marathon known simply as Bardenheimer (which has even inspired a poster).

At first it was an endorsement, then a challenge to film-goers to see them both back to back, but to choose which one you would see first.

It seems people were quite happy to take up the challenge because the Barbenheimer social meme has fueled the fourth-biggest box office weekend in history and the largest opening post pandemic.

As reported by Variety, over the weekend, moviegoers turned out in force for Greta Gerwig’s neon-coated fantasy comedy Barbie, which smashed expectations with $377 million internationally (or approx $557 million AU) to land the biggest debut of the year. But cinema-goers also showed up to see Christopher Nolan’s MA-rated historical drama Oppenheimer, which collected a remarkable $174 million internationally (around $257 million AU) over the opening weekend of 20-24 July.

At a glance, the audience overlap isn’t clear. Oppenheimer, starring Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr. and Emily Blunt, is a somber character study about the theoretical physicist who led the development of the atomic bomb. Barbie, featuring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, is a fantasy comedy about Barbie-Land expats who go on a quest for self-discovery in the real world.

Visually, Oppenheimer is moody and intense biopic about the moral conundrum of creating the worlds deadliest weapon, while Barbie is a physical manifestation of the colour pink wrapped up in a gender empowerment message. Yet the contrast is the very thing that’s galvanizing film lovers.

Hundreds of thousands of ticket buyers refused to choose between the two seemingly different auter-driven blockbusters with sprawling casts and twin release dates. So they opted to attend same-day viewings of Barbie and Oppenheimer, turning it into a double feature for the ages.

“Studios gave audiences two uniquely different, smart and original stories that were meant for the big screen”, says Michael O’Leary, president and CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners in the US, the industry’s trade organisation reported to Variety.

“People recognized that something special was happening, and they wanted to be a part of it.”

Were you among the merry band of movie lovers who have leaned into the social media frenzy “Barbenheimer” by planning back-to-back screenings of the two seemingly different films released on the same day?

And if you did, let us know which film you watched first in the comments.


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