If pop culture in 2023 had to be defined by one word, most film fans would say, "Barbenheimer." The July 21 release dates of Barbie and Oppenheimer became an organic holiday among the movie world, complete with months of buzz online and countless dispatches of moviegoers arriving for their Saturday double features (even in costume). It's pretty unbelievable that the biggest movie event of the decade so far was truly a grassroots affair, but now, Margot Robbie is revealing that Barbenheimer almost didn't happen at all!
For their 2023 iteration of their "Actors on Actors" series, Variety also jumped on the Barbenheimer train, pairing stars Margot Robbie and Cillian Murphy for a conversation about their respective box-office hits. During the chat, the Barbie actress and producer mentioned that she got a call from Oppenheimer producer Charles Roven, who asked her to change the Barbie release date so that it wouldn't open on the same day as Christopher Nolan's epic biopic.
"One of your producers, Chuck Roven, called me, because we worked together on some other projects,” Robbie said, referring to the 2016 film The Suicide Squad. "And he was like, 'I think you guys should move your date.' And I was like, 'We’re not moving our date. If you’re scared to be up against us, then you move your date.' And he’s like, ‘We’re not moving our date. I just think it’d be better for you to move.' And I was like, 'We’re not moving!'"
Per Variety, Oppenheimer's July 21, 2023, opening date was released by Universal Studios first, before Warner Bros.’ later announced that Barbie would open the same day. Robbie also explained her resolve not to delay the Barbie release date, stating that she always thought the two films were a "really great pairing."
"It’s a perfect double billing…Clearly the world agreed. Thank God," Robbie added. "The fact that people were going and being like, 'Oh, watch Oppenheimer first, then Barbie. I was like, 'See? People like everything.' People are weird…I think they were also really excited by the filmmakers. People were itching for the next Chris Nolan film and itching for the next Greta Gerwig film. To get them at the same time was exciting."
Of course, Robbie ended up being spot on, with Barbenhemier becoming a successful example of counterprogramming and a thought-provoking double feature. (Anyone looking to replicate this at home, many have suggested doing Oppenheimer first and then Barbie in an "dessert after dinner" situation.) The films had a blowout opening weekend, bringing in a total $302 million and becoming the fourth highest-grossing industry weekend of all time in North America, per CNN. To date, Barbie has raked in a total $1.4 billion worldwide, and Oppenheimer has made $950 million.
As for Cillian Murphy's thoughts on the pop culture juggernaut? "I think it happened because both movies were good," he told Robbie. "In fact, that summer, there was a huge diversity of stuff in the cinema, and I think it just connected in a way that you or I or the studios or anybody could never have predicted."
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