J. Robert Oppenheimer was born in New York City in 1904.
The first Barbie doll debuted at the American Toy Fair in 1959.
Until recently, it seemed unlikely that the paths of these 20th century American icons would ever intersect.
But now, the fates of the fashionable blonde and the poetry-quoting physicist are forever intertwined, thanks to the year’s most highly anticipated box office showdown.
Yes, after months of memes, mash-ups, and hilariously contrasting photos depicting two very different color palettes, Barbenheimer is finally upon us.
On Thursday night, in theaters all over America, Greta Gerwig’s candy-coated comedy Barbie will square off against Christopher Nolan’s jet-black historical biopic Oppenheimer.
Thousands of social media users have announced their intention to see both in one day, a double feature that’s sure to test even the most iron-clad bladders and psyches.
Usually, the release of two heavily buzzed studio tentpoles on the same weekend means that by Sunday night, there will be one clear winner.
But that’s not the case with the Barbenheimer battle.
Yes, Barbie is expected to outperform Oppenheimer, with industry analysts predicting a $110 million take for the former film and just $40 million for the latter.
But a grim three-hour, partially black-and-white film about a theoretical physicist and a horrific tragedy was never going to be the summer’s top box office champ.
And a family-friendly flick with an A-list star portraying a character that’s beloved by multiple generations would probably pull in nine figures no matter what it was stacked up against.
In an unusual twist on the usual box office battle scenario, Barbie and Oppenheimer might actually benefit one another by generating a level of hype that wouldn’t exist if the films debuted on separate weekends.
Furthermore, this unusual symbiosis could provide a much-needed shot in the arm for a film industry that’s reeling from two union strikes and a sluggish summer.
Besides, even though they’re being released on the same day, Barbie and Oppenheimer are hitting theaters with very different agendas.
Nolan’s film is looking to win big with critics and generate the sort of award buzz — Cillian Murphy is already being cited as a lock for Best Actor — that might lead to box office longevity.
Barbie is more of a traditional summer release, and Warner Bros. is hoping that Margot Robbie’s star power will pack houses on opening weekend.
That said, don’t be surprised if the Academy recognizes Gerwig’s much-praised screenplay and Ryan Gosling’s performance as ultimate himbo Ken come Oscar season.
Such accolades are not common for films based on famous toys, but to quote America’s favorite plastic bombshell, “Now I am become Barbie, destroyer of norms.” Or something.
The point is, when non-Disney, non-comic-based movies promise the sort of theatrical turnout we haven’t seen since before the pandemic, everybody wins!