Barbenheimer weekend generates almost £30m at UK box office

The dual offerings of Barbie and Oppenheimer prompted the biggest weekend for UK cinema-going since 2019, according to the UK Cinema Association (Ian West/PA)
Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor

The dual offerings of Barbie and Oppenheimer prompted the biggest weekend for UK cinema-going since 2019, according to the UK Cinema Association.

Greta Gerwig’s film about the Mattel doll, played by Margot Robbie, having an existential crisis and Christopher Nolan’s epic about the “father” of the atomic bomb, generated almost £30 million at the UK box office, the group, which represents the interests of UK cinema operators, said.

Cinema chain Vue said a fifth of its customers had purchased tickets to see both films in a double bill dubbed by social media as Barbenheimer.

More than 2,000 of Vue’s Barbie screenings were sold out, according to the company.

Tim Richards, chief executive and founder of Vue International, told the PA news agency: “We knew it was going to be a big weekend based on the advanced bookings, which were also the biggest since the pandemic.

“The numbers are phenomenal. We had over 500,000 customers come to Vue on the weekend alone. We had 4,000 sold-out sessions, 2,000 sold-out sessions for Barbie alone.

“But I think that it’s not just about Barbie and Oppenheimer, it’s just a return to cinema.

“Our customers never left us, we just haven’t had movies. If you look back in the last 12 months, we have set records with Avatar, one of the highest grossing movies in history.

“We’ve got Tom Cruise, at 60 years old, and Top Gun: Maverick delivered 1.5 billion dollars, the biggest movie of his career.

“And you look at smaller movies, you look at a black-and-white film, Belfast, to deliver one of the highest-grossing black-and-white films in the modern era.

“So it’s a supply issue, and not a demand issue – our customers are desperate to go out and watch a great movie with others.”

Richards said Pixar film Elemental, Cruise offering Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, and Harrison Ford’s Indiana Jones finale Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny also received a bump this weekend, aided by the poor weather.

Cinemas now face the prospect of a halt in the supply chain as Hollywood’s writers and actors are on strike.

Richards said that, while the summer blockbusters have already been released or are ready to go, the effects of the strike will be felt further down the line.

He said: “This does not feel or seem like a short-term issue, and the stakes are high on both sides. So we’re hoping for a short strike and a quick resolution.”

In the short term it is the cost-of-living crisis that could pose a more immediate issue.

He said: “We are a big consumer of energy and our costs have gone up, probably disproportionally, and we’ve done our very best not to pass those costs on to our customers because we are aware of the pressures that our customers are undergoing.

“We are aware of the difficulties they have and continue to have with high inflation, high utility costs, and it’s tough for everyone.

“For families we’ve got special pricing for Saturday and Sunday mornings, we have ticket prices at over half our cinemas at £4.99 and we’ve done our very best to make it as accessible as possible for our customers.”

Odeon cinemas welcomed more than one million people through its doors following the release of Barbie and Oppenheimer, in the chain’s busiest week since the Covid pandemic.

It marked the biggest weekend for the cinemas since Avengers: Endgame in 2019 and the chain’s busiest Saturday since 2015.

Odeon said it sold 230,000 litres of drinks, 610,000 litres of popcorn, and 49,000 portions of nachos over the weekend.

Suzie Welch, interim managing director of Odeon UK & Ireland, said: “What a weekend it was for guests, with so many cinemas jam-packed full from Friday onwards on our busiest weekend since 2019.

“We were thrilled by the demand these blockbuster openings caused and are impressed at those that opted for the double bill – whichever way round guests did it!

“Our colleagues did an incredible job of ensuring everything ran smoothly at such a busy time and we hope to welcome many more through Odeon’s doors in the coming weeks to enjoy the amazing films on offer.”