Tuesday, April 23, 2024

“Barbenheimer” is Coming and It Won’t Be Pretty: Two Blockbusters Go Head to Head on July 21st, Only One Will Emerge the Winner


The movie world is counting down to July 21st. That’s when Universal Pictures opens Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” and Warner Bros. delivers Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” (co-written with husband Noah Baumbach).

When box office receipts are counted on Saturday morning, July 22nd, life as we know it may never be the same.

This legendary death cage match has a lot of history and baggage. Nolan made all his movies at Warner Bros, for two decades. But when his impenetrable “Tenet” had to be released during the pandemic, the company put it on streaming, where it was even less understandable. Nolan was furious, and left the company.

Recently the Warner’s honchos said they wanted to woo him back. So why release “Barbie” on the same day? That decision remains a mystery. But the result is a collision both in theaters and backstage. Press screenings for the two films are on the same days, causing a lot agita among reviewers. At least their big premieres are on different coasts. “Oppenheimer” is here in New York, “Barbie” is in Los Angeles.

The real test will be on Sunday night (tomorrow) when the press social media embargo lifts for “Barbie.” Then we’ll start to see reactions from critics. These early reactions will be vital for a lot of reasons. Warner Bros, coming off a huge dud with “The Flash,” needs a big hit more than Universal. If “Barbie” isn’t swooned over, the spectre of David Zaslav will loom large. He would love to sell Barbie and Ken’s Dream House in a minute.

Among the ticket buying audience so far “Barbie” — with an enormous marketing plan — is tracking to open between $70 and $80 million. “Oppenheimer” is put at $40 million. But which one will get better reviews? And which will last through Labor Day?

The match has meantime inspired dozens of t shirt designs for what is being called “Barbenheimer.” This could be a good thing for both movies, sending fans to see each of them on the first weekend. That’s what Tom Cruise says he plans to do. Of course, his movie, “Dead Reckoning — Part One,” opens a week earlier. It’s more than likely that that film will hold the top spot for a second week in a row, pushing the warring duo to numbers two and three.

Check back on Sunday night for the early takes.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedmanhttps://www.showbiz411.com
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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