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The Year in Entertainment 2023: “Barbenheimer” shakes up the box office


It was a movie date night nobody could have predicted that proved that opposites attract.

On July 21, moviegoers had a choice: On one hand, there was Greta Gerwig‘s cotton candy-colored comedy Barbie, starring Margot Robbie as America’s most famous doll come to life, and on the other, acclaimed director Christopher Nolan‘s R-rated nuclear-age drama Oppenheimer.

In the end, movie fans chose both and “Barbenheimer” was born.

Barbie, which also starred Ryan Gosling as Ken, as well as a host of other Barbies and Kens — including Issa Rae and Dua Lipa, and Simu Liu and Kingsley Ben-Adir became the biggest movie of the year, raking in more than $1.4 billion worldwide and spawning a hit soundtrack to boot.

Oppenheimer went on to gross more than $951 million worldwide — making it the second-highest-grossing R-rated movie in history, after only 2019’s Oscar-winning Joker.

The study of the father of the atomic bomb, Robert J. Oppenheimer, also became the highest-grossing biopic of all time and the biggest moneymaker about World War II.

What’s more, Oppenheimer’s star-filled cast, including Cillian Murphy as Oppenheimer and Robert Downey Jr. as his political foe Lewis Strauss, are likely a lock come Oscar nominations.

Robbie, who also produced Barbie, recently looked back at the phenomenon that became known as “Barbenheimer,” describing what happened behind the scenes as the movies were set on a release day collision course.

In an Actors on Actors interview for Variety, she revealed one of the producers for Nolan’s nuclear age drama suggested she shift Barbie’s theatrical release plans. “If you’re scared to be up against us, then you move your date … We’re not moving,"” she recalled with a smile, adding she thought the movies were “a perfect double billing.”

And the rest, as they say, was history.

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