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Barbie and Oppenheimer's Box Office Is Proof Studios Need to Make a Fair Deal

Amid proclamations that "Barbenheimer" means movies are back, two pivotal groups of Hollywood workers remain out of work.

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Barbie and Oppenheimer opened this weekend, and crossing theater aisles for both films was a cultural phenomenon; Barbenheimer. Double-billing both films may not have been most people’s cup of tea (and, frankly, I would not recommend it) but both films resonated with audiences, bringing in a total of $511 million dollars globally opening weekend.

That’s not a typo. Barbie opened to $155 domestically, and $182 million internationally. Oppenheimer was at $80.5 and $93.5 million, respectively. These numbers aren’t just incredible, they are practically unprecedented. This is the fourth-largest box office weekend in history, and the largest since the pandemic began in 2019. Variety also notes that the other three weekends to break similar records were bolstered by massive, established film IPs—like Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Barbie’s director, Greta Gerwig, also put an incredible feather in her cap: Barbie was the biggest opening weekend ever for a film directed by a woman.


Funnily enough, this isn’t the first time that Oppenheimer’s director, Christopher Nolan, has been a part of an incongruous double feature. I don’t know how many of you remember in 2008 when The Dark Knight came out on July 18th, the same weekend that Mamma Mia premiered globally. Truly, The Dark Mamma walked so that Barbenheimer could run.

But if all this is to be taken at face value, it appears that film audiences are excited to support films from directors, writers, and actors that create challenging, exciting, and novel art. The actors and writers at the heart of these films are on strike because the producers—via the AMPTP—do not respect many of the people who are at the heart of the production enough to pay them what they’re worth. So many actors and writers are struggling to pay rent and purchase groceries, even after working on successful films and shows, and it is existential that talent be allowed to grow, learn, and thrive in Hollywood. This record-breaking weekend is proof that the magic of movies is here to stay—and it’s only going to if the people who labor to make that magic are treated and supported fairly.


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about the future of Doctor Who.