Forbes India 15th Anniversary Special

Barbie leads the world... but in India, Oppenheimer rules

The Hollywood mega-movies, which face off at the box office starting today, have cinemagoers divided

Published: Jul 21, 2023 01:27:42 PM IST
Updated: Jul 21, 2023 01:57:41 PM IST

Barbie leads the world... but in India, Oppenheimer rulesCinema chain PVR is expecting Oppenheimer to do box office business of Rs 7 crore to Rs 8 crore in India, and Barbie to trail at Rs 4 crore to Rs 5 crore, for opening weekend.


The fan-o-menon is so crazed that it has its own portmanteau: Barbenheimer. After weeks of magazines and cinephiles and social media accounts asking you to pick a ‘Team’ for opening weekend, Hollywood’s massively anticipated films Barbie and Oppenheimer cross swords at the box office, releasing today. 

The films are of very different genres, and it’s interesting to see how they place around the world. Greta Gerwig’s self-aware satire brushed in pink, Barbie, tells the story of Mattel’s Barbie and Ken, who are plucked from their Dream House into the real world. Oppenheimer, touted to be Christopher Nolan’s next masterpiece, is a biographical thriller about a theoretical physicist who was central to creating nuclear weapons, changing the world as we know it. 

In Western markets, Barbie has emerged a clear winner, with a glittering $110 million opening projected in the US, versus Oppenheimer’s $50 million, The Guardian reports. 

According to Deadline, Barbie is eyeing around $165 million worldwide, including $60 million to $65 million from 69 offshore markets including France and Korea on Wednesday, followed by Germany, Italy, Spain, Australia and all of Latin America on Thursday, and then the UK and China on Friday. Meanwhile, Oppenheimer is likely to clock in $45 million outside of the US, with a near $100 million global start. 

In India, however, Oppenheimer has captured more opening weekend sales than Barbie has. Ticketing platform BookMyShow told Forbes India that Nolan’s film notched up 360,000 tickets in advanced sales in India, versus Barbie’s 91,000. Cinema chain PVR is expecting Oppenheimer to do box office business of Rs 7 crore to Rs 8 crore in India, and Barbie to trail at Rs 4 crore to Rs 5 crore, for opening weekend.

Barbie leads the world... but in India, Oppenheimer rules 

“Both movies are very, very strong, and it’s an unprecedented weekend,” Sanjeev Kumar Bijli, executive director, PVR INOX Limited, tells Forbes India. “Two Hindi movies coming together on a holiday weekend is a known phenomenon, but two massive English films of two very different genres is new. Both have been getting fabulous reviews. Even before the reviews, the way they were tracking has been hugely encouraging.” 

Also read: Barbie vs Oppenheimer is an 'unusual, unprecedented weekend for India': PVR INOX's Sanjeev Kumar Bijli

“Similar to global trends, many cinephiles have already booked their tickets to both these movies. On BookMyShow, we have observed 8 percent of transactors for Oppenheimer also having booked tickets for Barbie, with a large chunk opting to watch both films on the same day,” says Ashish Saksena, COO – cinemas, BookMyShow. “In fact, we have also witnessed that 27 percent of transactors for Oppenheimer have watched Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (MI 7) just recently, further reiterating a strong audience for quality Hollywood spectacles on the silver screen.” 

In other markets, analysts say that Barbie also leads because it is showing at more cinemas and can squeeze in more shows since it is an hour shorter than its rival.  

Why Oppenheimer is winning in India 

In India, both films are restricted to markets in bigger cities. India remains a big fanbase for director Christopher Nolan, who has previously delivered blockbusters including Inception, Interstellar and The Dark Knight Rises. 

The film was shot using a combination of IMAX 65mm and 65mm large-format film – including, for the first time, sections in IMAX black & white analog photography to enhance the storytelling experience. “People are super excited to watch the film in IMAX for this very reason,” says Preetham Daniel, vice president, APAC - theatre development, IMAX Corporation.  

Also read: 'India is one of Imax's most successful markets' 

Since Oppenheimer will be the only release on IMAX screens this week, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Delhi-NCR and Chennai are in the lead for most ticket sales on BookMyShow. People are reportedly travelling from all over to IMAX screens to catch shows in the first few days before the spoilers are out. “Hopping aboard the Nolan Express, a whopping 42 percent of tickets booked on BookMyShow have been for immersive cinematic formats, specifically the IMAX format, with cinephiles gunning for the best theatre experience for a striking movie such as Oppenheimer,” adds Saksena.  

"Usually, India is not known to be a market that books ‘advance tickets’. But this is the first time, for Oppenheimer people have been booking tickets in advance since the day tickets went on sale, because of the FOMO [fear of missing out] factor,” explains Daniel.  

Oppenheimer is also the first non-franchise Hollywood movie to have early morning shows at 3 am. Nolan fan Siddharth Ostwal, leading creative strategy at Finnet Media who watched Oppenheimer at 6.30 this morning in Bengaluru says, “Even at 6.30 am the theatre was jam-packed. I went to watch the film alone on the first day for the very first show, because I didn’t want to risk getting any FOMO.” Despite tickets being priced as high as Rs 2,450, shows have been sold out. As expected, he says, “The film is definitely a must-watch."

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