Weekend Box Office (July 21 - 23, 2023)

by Gitesh Pandya

THIS WEEKEND "Barbenheimer" equals real money! Studios often schedule competing films on the same weekend, but this time movie fans fueled a movement going out to the cinemas to see Barbie from Warner Bros. as well as Oppenheimer from Universal to the tune of over $235M in combined domestic sales and a jaw-dropping $511M at the global box office! Both overperformed and neither was a sequel or super hero movie! Industry expectations were shattered and audiences proved again that they will fill up theaters for the right movies.

Barbie was the queen of the box office this weekend with a colossal $155M opening weekend in North America and spectacular $337M worldwide. Playing at 4,243 domestic sites, the PG-13 comedy averaged a sensational $36,531 per location selling out shows coast to coast. It was the biggest opening weekend of 2023 surpassing the $146.4M of April's The Super Mario Bros. Movie which itself was a movie adaptation of a popular decades-old kids brand with a built-in fan base.

Directed by Greta Gerwig, Barbie also broke the all-time record for biggest opening for a female director. Captain Marvel, which had one female and one male director, debuted to $153.4M while Wonder Woman, with one solo female director, did $103.3M in 2017. Genuine excitement grew rapidly, especially in the final week before release, and sent the numbers sky high. Reviews were very good and audiences also loved the film giving it an A grade with CinemaScore. Strong word-of-mouth kept Barbie going and with many summer weeks still to come and competition not too strong there is plenty of potential here.

This record weekend kicked off with an amazing Friday opening day of $70.8M which included $22.3M from pre-shows. Both were the biggest for any film this year. Saturday dropped 32% to $48.1M and Sunday is estimated to dip 25% to $36.1M. Should the estimate be conservative, a final weekend gross of $157-158M could be possible. These figures are especially impressive given there were no IMAX screens and only limited premium screens available.

When it comes to bigger budget studio films, Hollywood tends to make them more male-driven with male directors. This Margot Robbie pic was a departure hoping to tap into women and girls across generations who love the brand but the numbers, without question, played out like a tentpole super hero film. Sequel discussions with talent are sure to continue once the strikes are over.

The towering $337M worldwide start for Barbie included $182M from international markets. Top territory debuts included: UK $22.9M, Mexico $22.3M, Brazil $15.9M & Australia $14.6M. China started slow but gained momentum over the weekend so it will be an interesting place to watch over the weeks ahead. Given the gigantic start, strong buzz, and the calendar ahead, the billion dollar mark cannot be ruled out at this time!

In the shadow of a juggernaut, Christopher Nolan still flexed his box office muscles and saw his new film Oppenheimer open in second place with an estimated $80.5M. Universal averaged $22,299 from 3,610 locations and higher-priced premium screens were the way to go for fans. 26% of the business was from IMAX screens and overall 47% of the take came from all premium options. Nolan fans were willing to pay more for the special experience. Considering this is a three-hour R-rated film about a scientist and not any kind of sequel, it's an astounding amount of business that was generated at a time when known franchises always rule the cinemas. This truly shows how much of a draw Nolan is.

Reviews for Oppenheimer were glowing across the board and there is even Oscar buzz circulating. The A CinemaScore grade shows that customers are liking what they're getting. This is the third best opening weekend ever for the director behind only his Batman sequels The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises. Studio demos showed the audience to be 62% male, 62% over 25, and 55% white.

Overseas markets rocked too with a total international debut of $93.7M making for a worldwide launch of $174.2M with a promising road ahead. Top market launches were: UK $13.3M, India $7M, France $6.6M, Germany $6.4M and Australia $6.3M. Korea and Italy are still to come in August to keep things going.

This was the first weekend in box office history which featured a $100M+ opening along with a $70M+ opening. Led by Barbie and Oppenheimer, overall domestic ticket sales broke $300M this weekend for only the fourth time in history! The previous three times were on the weekends of the record-breaking launches for 2015's Star Wars: The Force Awakens, 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, and 2019's Avengers: Endgame. The market expanded this weekend with a broad variety of moviegoers coming out and spending big. The industry hopes that they saw trailers and will keep coming out in the weeks and months ahead. Barbenheimer's heading to $1.5 billion or more this summer!

The runaway hit thriller Sound of Freedom took third place in its third weekend with an estimated $20.1M, down only 25%. Angel Studios has created an unlikely summer blockbuster by tapping into a passionate audience while also using a strategy where people buy some of the tickets and donate them to others. Total to date is an impressive $124.7M on its way to $175M+.

With Barbenheimer dominating the attention and conversations of moviegoers everywhere, Tom Cruise's latest spy sequel Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part 1 dropped a sharp 64% from its opening weekend to an estimated $19.5M. That's a far cry from the 42% sophomore decline for the last film in the series, 2018's Fallout, although its biggest competition was the opening of the kidpic Christopher Robin. After 12 days Paramount's newest Ethan Hunt flick is at $118.8M, off 12% from where Fallout was at the same point. Overseas markets kicked in $55M for the new MI boosting the international total to $252.1M and global sum to $370.9M. Reaching $600M may be possible.

A pair of five-quels followed. The legacy sequel Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny dropped another 45% in its fourth frame to an estimated $6.7M putting Disney at $159M to date. With its large budget, more was expected this summer and the new fifth chapter is running 41% behind the pace of the last installment, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull from Summer 2008. Factor in how much more tickets cost today and it's clear to see that more than half of the Skull audience did not come back out for Destiny. Offshore markets have added $176M putting the worldwide total at just $335M with a finish below $400M expected.

The horror sequel Insidious: The Red Door followed with an estimated $6.5M, down 50% in its third weekend. The Sony hit has banked $71M to date on its way to challenging the $83.6M of Insidious: Chapter 2 to become the top-grossing installment of this lucrative franchise. The worldwide gross is now $155.8M on track for nearly $200M. Door's budget was just $16M.

Pixar's latest toon Elemental opened slow but managed strong legs ever since with families finding this original film a little bit later. The sixth round delivered an estimated $5.8M, off 36%, pushing the domestic total to $137.2M on its way to $150-160M. With $219.4M overseas the film now stands at $356.6M worldwide and is set to join the $400M+ club which Indiana Jones won't be able to do.

Next up was the animated super hero sequel Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse which dropped 54% in its eighth weekend to an estimated $2.8M giving Sony $375.2M to date. The toon currently ranks as the second biggest domestic hit of the year, though Barbie will surpass it within the next couple of weeks. Spider-Verse should end up with about $380M+ with the next installment scheduled for release next year. Across crossed $300M overseas this weekend with $300.2M putting global at $675.4M.

The robots in disguise sequel Transformers: Rise of the Beasts pulled in an estimated $1.1M in its seventh round, down 68%, putting Paramount at $155.6M stateside to date. It's grossed more than the last two films in the overall franchise. With $271.5M overseas, Beasts now sits at $427.1M worldwide.

Jennifer Lawrence's raunchy comedy No Hard Feelings took a hit with Barbie entering the marketplace and fell 67% to an estimated $1.1M in its fifth weekend. Sony's cume stands at $49.2M on its way to finishing just over the $50M mark which has been tough for R-rated comedies to get to in recent years.

The top ten films grossed an estimated $299.2M which was up a potent 141% from the same weekend a year ago when Nope opened to $44.4M, and up a stunning 347% from pandemic-affected 2021 when Old debuted to $16.9M. Both of those were adult-skewing thrillers from Universal.

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Last Updated: July 23, 2023 at 2:15PM ET

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