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Since Friday, North American cineastes have thronged en masse to the dimmed movie halls, reveling in two major Hollywood productions: Barbie and Oppenheimer. The film industry braces for one of the most profitable weekends of the year, spurred by the phenomenal fervor generated by these two films.

The film featuring the famed pink doll has already amassed over 22 million dollars in previews, while the biopic about the nuclear weapon’s architect has harvested 10.5 million, according to data from Boxoffice Pro. The exuberance surrounding Barbie is such that it might surpass the performance of the second installment of Avatar, released last December, and reach a revenue of 150 million euros for the launch weekend.

Daniel Loria, Editorial Director at Boxoffice Pro, said that “The expectations are so colossal that it’s not a question of if these films will be successful, but measuring the magnitude of this success.” Over 200,000 spectators have even planned to watch both films on the same day, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.

This cinematic duel has spawned a wave of humorous diversions and jests on social media, with the design of a specific merchandise range for both films. This phenomenon, dubbed Barbenheimer, vividly encapsulates the cultural clash that has enthralled audiences.

Shawn Robbins, Chief Analyst for Boxoffice Pro, noted that Barbie’s online communication strategy had “ignited like a wildfire, drawing on a demographic as well as a female audience that has been insufficiently considered.” In parallel, director Christopher Nolan commands a base of die-hard fans, all intrigued by the unexpected Barbenheimer concurrence.

David Gross, from Franchise Entertainment Research, contends that the films will mutually buoy each other rather than compete, creating fascination and anticipation among moviegoers. He suggests Barbie is primarily targeting women and younger viewers, while Oppenheimer may be more appealing to men and older audiences. However, he insists that “everyone” could potentially watch both films.

The Barbenheimer fever has permeated film enthusiasts from all walks of life. In New York, Eric Adams, a 27-year-old salesman, recounted that the theater was packed as early as 10:30 AM, forcing him to wait until late evening to watch Barbie. From Colorado, Emma McNealy, 35, admits she would have preferred to stream Oppenheimer at home, but the Barbenheimer phenomenon has rekindled her affinity for the big screen.

Even Hollywood, despite ongoing strikes amongst writers and actors, appears enthused by this clash of the titans. Tom Cruise, star of the new installment of Mission Impossible, expressed his enthusiasm for both films on Twitter. In response, Greta Gerwig, the director of Barbie, and Margot Robbie, who plays the title role, were pictured with tickets to Cruise’s film.

Thus, the American box office witnesses a unique royal battle, with two diametrically opposed films locked in an epic struggle for supremacy. The real victor, however, appears to be cinema itself, once again affirming its ability to captivate and fascinate audiences.

With AFP