The dual rollout of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, otherwise known as “Barbenheimer,” has officially begun. Audience members eager to see the blonde and/or the bomb began piling into theaters on Thursday night for a blockbuster weekend expected to reawaken the summer box office.
Combined, Barbie, an existential take on a Mattel toy starring Margot Robbie and Oppenheimer, a biopic about the father of the atomic bomb, starring Cillian Murphy, are expected to exceed $260 million at the global box office. But which film is already coming out on top?
That would be the woman in pink. Warner Bros.’ Barbie made $22.3 million at the domestic box office in Thursday previews, according to The Hollywood Reporter. That’s well above fellow summer tentpoles Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, which earned $17.5 million in previews, as well as Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse with $17.4 million. Despite being banned in Vietnam and triggering Republican lawmakers like Matt Gaetz and Ted Cruz, Barbie is on track to open to as much as $100 million domestically, as reported by the outlet.
Universal’s Oppenheimer claimed second place on Thursday with $10.5 million made in previews. And its three-hour-plus runtime isn’t projected to deter theatergoers—the film is pacing to make just shy of $50 million this weekend. As suggested by the Barbenheimer label, many audience members are seeing both films, often back-to-back. AMC has stated that over 40,000 of their AMC Stubs members have bought advance tickets to see both movies on the same day.
Tom Cruise is one such public advocate for a Barbie-Oppenheimer double feature. He has no stakes in either film, but is the lead of rival IMAX movie Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning, which is expected to place third at the box office in its second weekend. The high-octane sequel is projected to earn an additional $28–$30 million.
However the final totals settle, increased audience engagement is welcome after the economic failures of blockbusters like The Flash and Indiana Jones, and before Hollywood’s strikes threaten the release dates of films like Dune: Part Two. “I do think a rising tide lifts all boats,” a top film agent told Vanity Fair. “When we have pictures in theaters that start to feel like they’re ‘watercooler’—which I really think the Barbie–Oppenheimer thing is becoming—it’s incredibly healthy for the box office, because what we’re doing is delivering an experience that people feel like was worth their time and money.”