In its third week of release, Barbie has powered past $1 billion at the global box office. Greta Gerwig is now the highest-grossing female director, and the only woman to solo direct a billion-dollar film (Captain Marvel director Anna Boden, along with co-director Ryan Fleck, is also a billion-dollar lady director, but she is part of a duo). Barbie is now the biggest hit of Margot Robbie’s and Ryan Gosling’s careers. Barbie is also now one of only two billion-dollar films so far this year, the other being The Super Mario Bros. Movie (currently the worldwide leader with $1.35 billion). 


The bonanza success of Barbie means we’re in for the Barbification of movies, which is probably not going to result in a slew of wildly creative, singular artistic visions, so we may someday look back on this as our own cinematic Trinity test, the moment something blew up and changed the landscape forever for the worse. But for now, we can celebrate Barbie, an ambitiously bizarre, feel-good movie that actually makes people feel good, living the pink-powered dream of total cultural domination. Can’t wait to see what wrong lessons the mostly men who run Hollywood learn from this. 

And in a “rising tides lift all boats” situation, Oppenheimer continues to play very well, benefitting from that exclusive IMAX deal—which is now extended through the end of the month—and sold-out screenings around the world. Oppy has clocked $556 million so far, an astounding result for a three-hour movie about white guys in rooms talking to each other.  It has already surpassed other Christopher Nolan films like Batman Begins and Dunkirk in box office and seems likely to challenge Interstellar as Nolan’s fourth-highest grossing film.


Although, maybe rising tides DON’T lift all boats, so much as Barbenheimer as a cultural phenomenon worked for these two movies, because Oppenheimer’s success definitely comes at the cost of Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Losing those premium large format screens hurt, no doubt. It’s stalling out just under $500 million, and will likely fail to top Mission: Impossible II’s haul of $546 million. 

I know Tom Cruise has his thing about summer blockbusters, but releasing Dead Reckoning in an already overcrowded summer looked a little risky before, now it looks just plain dumb, given how Barbenheimer is dominating the summer. (Also, there might be some “part one” wariness, as some people undoubtedly will just wait for Part Two to drop and then watch both together next year.) This is also the second time Paramount has blown a release strategy this year, previously stranding Dungeons & Dragons in a similarly overcrowded spring. 


(It begs the question of studios pushing completed films to 2024. We’re already seeing the effect of an overcrowded marketplace this year, with too many movies coming out as a result of the post-COVID production rush. Pushing everything back due to the strikes will just cause the problem to repeat in 2024. People like going to the movies…within limit. We knew even before the pandemic that there was a limit to how many movies people would want or could afford to see in theaters, nothing about the last few years has alleviated that problem.)

The box office has been a seesaw this year, with the massive success of Barbenheimer set against large-scale flops like The Flash and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny. But it’s not totally bleak, as Pixar’s Elemental, written off after opening weekend, has quietly legged it out all summer and earned $424 worldwide. Similarly, The Little Mermaid has put up over $566 million. They aren’t the billion-dollar hits Disney wanted, but they’re not total disasters, either. Elemental actually isn’t a disaster at all and shows that Pixar can rebound theatrically after being used as cannon fodder for Disney+ during the pandemic. The Little Mermaid’s excessive budget (estimated around $390 million including marketing) makes it harder to actually turn a profit, but its consistent box office over the summer shows the film DID find an audience.

But there is no doubt which film will be remembered as THE film of summer 2023, and that is Barbie. Thanks to the Barbenheimer phenomenon, Oppenheimer will always be mentioned in the same breath, but she is everything, and he’s just Oppy.