Box Office: ‘Barbenheimer’ Is 2023’s Phenomenon & ‘Sound of Freedom’ Is The Summer’s New Main Attraction

What a box office weekend. What a moment.

This is what we come to movies for. The sensation and exhilaration of witnessing S-tier quality movies, jam-packed theaters, and an overflow of crispy popcorn to pass around to get inside the multiplex and avoid the dominating summer heat. It’s also one of those rare scenarios where the two new blockbusters don’t compete with one another over demographics or numbers but complement each other if one catches onto the pop-culture memes. The cultural craze of ‘Barbenheimer’ produced the 4th largest weekend in overall box office history. Remember that the top three are reserved by IP juggernauts, such as Avengers: Infinity War, Endgame, and The Force Awakens. A $200 million domestic opening for the flamboyant Greta Gerwig installment might’ve broken the Internet, but having it roar in this beautifully with $155 million domestically and $337 million worldwide is one hell of a consolation prize (and a genuine win for Warner Brothers). Oppenheimer also shattered opening weekend expectations, bringing in $80.5 million domestically and $174 million worldwide; this speaks to Nolan’s prowess as a generational filmmaker and his ability to invite audiences in on his name alone.

Speaking of numbers, this is the first time in box office history that two movies opened over $80 million domestically. Barbie has passed Captain Marvel to become the highest opening weekend for a movie with a female director and the largest to do so without an IMAX screen. Oppenheimer‘s opening is the biggest since Joker in 2019, the 12th biggest in film history (for an R-rated feature), and the second largest for a biopic (only behind American Sniper). If this doesn’t sell one enough, Warner Brothers have kept up their streak of reviving the theatrical era post-COVID with Godzilla vs. Kong, Tenet (ironic that it’s from Nolan), and now Barbie. And Universal Pictures added another feather in its cap this year after The Super Mario Bros. Movie stormed theaters for nearly $1.35 billion (normally, I would count Fast X, but that preposterous budget keeps it down). Oh, what a fantastic overlook, and there’s still more good news ahead.

Photo Courtesy of Variety/Angel Studios

Sound of Freedom, one of the year’s sleeper hits now, dipped 26% in its third weekend for $20.1 million and $125 million domestically. The harsh, eye-opening story of child trafficking might be the summer’s most stupendous feature, and with legs like this, it would not surprise if it could go the distance for $180 million. Angel Studios provided a stark sense of realism in a summer overflowing with sequels, heavy-handed fantasies, and animated plays.

Yours truly stood relatively optimistic about Elemental trying to leg out with two blockbusters at its front door, and it dipped 36% in its sixth weekend for $320 million worldwide. It will have enough legs to reach $350 million, but $400 million could be too far. This will be a crucial lesson that Disney can use to remind audiences to return to the theaters for a new Pixar outing instead of waiting at home. At least this is a step up in the right direction. Insidious: The Red Door dipped 50% in its third weekend, putting it over $155 million worldwide and ensuring another clean victory for horror this summer. It will make the play for $200 million worldwide, so fingers crossed.

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse has passed $675 million worldwide, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts might pass John Wick: Chapter 4‘s total before the month ends, and No Hard Feelings is on pace to pass $90 million before its theatrical run ends. These are all sizeable wins in this humble writer’s book, but this splendid weekend has two glaring issues.

The first is no fault of its own: Dead Reckoning Part 1 took a sizeable dip of 64% in its second weekend, indubitably thanks to the ‘Barbenheimer’ bandwagon and Sound of Freedom legging out like a champ. The tragic irony is Tom Cruise was the highlight last year, legging it out with Top Gun: Maverick for almost half the year. This time, he’ll be battling three other features for considerable legs for the remainder of the summer and topped with a heavy price budget. The seventh installment of the Mission Impossible series is currently at $370 million globally, but it’ll need to get to at least $600-650 million to be dubbed a “success.” Cruise still has that star power edge on his side, but will the battling for first place come to knock on this first part’s door?

Photo Courtesy of Disney

The other one is Harrison Ford as Dial of Destiny is bathed in a shower of red as it will not break even and cost Disney considerably for Ford’s last ride as Indiana Jones. It is the genuine loser of the summer, sharing the spotlight alongside The Flash, for pumping up its budget too high in the hopes of grand results. Audiences did not ask for this and had Disney put the budget closer to $200 million, this would’ve been a better picture. Good luck trying to recover from your sensational runs last decade, Disney; that king of the mountaintop position faded away immediately after 2019.

Next weekend sees the release of Haunted Mansion and Sympathy for the Devil.

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