Barbenheimer: Two Movies, One Day

21 July 2023

Two of the biggest summer movies are being released on the same day, July 21st, Barbie directed by Greta Gerwig and Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer.

The release of the movies has gotten a lot of attention on the internet and in social media. Many people are buying tickets to watch both films on the same day, creating the double feature event called "Barbenheimer."


The word "Barbenheimer" is a portmanteau or blend word of, not only the letters of the words, but their meanings as well. There is even some disagreement about how the word should be spelled: "Barbieheimer" or "Barbenheimer" or even "Boppenheimer."

Studios often target films in different genres for release on the same weekend. Oppenheimer is a serious drama about the man who supervised the development of the atomic bomb. Barbie is a colorful film about a popular line of American toys played by real people.

Directors Gerwig and Nolan have enthusiastic fans online. Some people are fans of both. When a new advertisement is shown for one movie, both show a lot of social media interactions. There are even memes and tee-shirts made about the release of the two movies on the same day.

Paul Dergarabedian is a media expert. He said that the "Barbenheimer" marketing is good for both movies.

"You're certainly aware of both movies in a more profound and compelling way," Dergarabedian said of the two movies.

Many theaters have already reported tickets sale for the double feature. AMC Theaters reported that 20,000 AMC Stubs members have bought tickets for both movies. That is over four hours of movie-watching.

Barbenheimer days

The stars say they are planning "Barbenheimer" days.

Margot Robbie plays Barbie. She spoke at the movie's first showing in London. She said people should start and end their day with Barbie, watching Oppenheimer in the middle. "It's a perfect double bill. "I think actually start your day with 'Barbie,' then go straight into Oppenheimer and then a Barbie..." The movie's star said people should watch her film twice.

Actor Tom Cruise's movie Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One was released just one week before "Barbenheimer." He said that he plans to see both films on opening day, probably starting with Oppenheimer.

Issa Rae is one of the actresses in Barbie. At the London premiere, she said there is a reason for people wanting to end their day with Barbie.

"I think that there's a very specific order that (you should) see them in," Rae said.

Some people in Hollywood think that the July 21st date for the opening of both films is not by chance. Many wonder if Warner Bros. Studios wanted Barbie to open the same weekend as Oppenheimer because Nolan had opened other films like Inception and Dunkirk through Warner Bros.

Nolan left the studio because of a decision to send a year's worth of movies to streaming services. Nolan then made Oppenheimer with Universal Studios.

Unspoken rule

There is an unspoken rule in Hollywood: Never publicly say bad things about another studio's movie. This idea is connected to a belief that supporting one movie is good for other movies. If a person goes to one movie and sees advertisements for another, it might create more interest and help the whole industry.

Cruise knew that that his Mission: Impossible would no longer be shown on the huge IMAX screens at some theaters when Oppenheimer is released. But Cruise posted photos of himself and director Christophere McQuarrie in front of advertisements for competing movies Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Barbie, and Oppenheimer.

Cruise posted the photos on his social media account saying: "This summer is full of amazing movies to see in theaters. These are just a few that we can't wait to see on the big screen."

Dergarabedian said, "Not only is Tom Cruise the biggest box office star in the world, but he's also an incredible ambassador for the movie theater, for the movie theater experience and boosting other movies."

He added that the friendly environment created by competition in Hollywood was a good thing.

The actors, directors and official social media accounts of all the movies have been very supportive of one another. Cillian Murphy plays Robert Oppenheimer. He told the Associated Press at the movie's London showing that, "of course" he would watch Barbie.

But everyone still enjoys a number one debut. Both Barbie and Oppenheimer reportedly cost $100 million to make, not including millions of dollars spent on marketing.

The Barbie opening weekend could make over $90 million in North America only, while Oppenheimer is expected to make $40 million on its first weekend. But Oppenheimer may have a longer life into awards season.

There is a lot of pressure on "Barbenheimer" to increase revenues for underperforming summer movies. And other issues like the writers' strike, which actors recently joined, are on people's minds. For example, the actors of Oppenheimer walked out of their movie's first showing in London as the actors' strike was announced.

I'm Dan Friedell.

And I'm Faith Pirlo.

Faith Pirlo adapted this story for Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

double feature –n. showing two long films (traditionally) for the price of one ticket

genre –n. a particular form or kind of art

drama –n. a performance about a serious subject

enthusiastic –adj. showing strong emotion and excitement

meme –n. a picture, video or idea that spreads widely through the internet

profound –adj. affecting people deeply

compelling –adj. causing people to want to see more

double bill –n. two shows on one program; a double feature

streaming service –n. a business that provides movies and shows through the internet

box office –adj. related to the business of filmmaking, especially ticket sales

boost –v. to show support for something or someone

debut n. The first appearance of something in public; the first performance of an artist in public

revenues –n. (often pl.) money made or paid to a business or organization; money collected in taxes