Studio executives may well have considered that releasing Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same weekend was a relatively safe bet given that, surely, they were targeting totally opposing audiences. Little could anyone predict that when the concept of Barbenheimer took hold, these films would become so much bigger than the sum of their parts. 

Barbenheimer, the meme created by coupling pictures of Oppenheimer’s brooding Cillian Murphy next to Barbie’s Lycra-clad, rollerblading, Ryan Gosling, showcasing the paradoxical visual imagery of the films, one being a gritty historical biopic about the founder of an atomic bomb, and the other a light-hearted, witty, and fun take on a childhood toy, gripped social media, and has only served to promote both films. 

The power of the big screen has always been its ability to bring together highly engaged audiences in experiences they genuinely look forward to. Post-pandemic, and with the subsequent rise in streaming devices, it has often been questioned whether these cultural moments at the cinema may ever see the highs they once did. Barbenheimer weekend has laid that ghost to rest. 

In November last year, Britain’s second-largest cinema operator, Cineworld, forecasted that admissions would remain below pre-pandemic levels for the next two years. Whilst UK and Ireland box office sales hit £690m in ticket sales last year, that was still 30 per cent below for the same period, pre-pandemic in 2019 (via The Guardian). This weekend, at the box office, marked the biggest weekend for UK cinema since 2019, and the second biggest ever in the UK, surpassing all expectations with a whopping £35.7m overall, with 82% of that being attributed to admissions between Barbie and Oppenheimer (Source: BFI).  

And if you have not seen the sea of pink taking over every media platform, then you have definitely been hiding under a rock. Advertisers should consider partnership opportunities with big blockbuster releases when developing marketing strategies. If you look at Airbnb’s rentable Barbie Dreamhouse, online and high street retailers with the likes of Boohoo, Primark, Zara, and Crocs developing Barbie-branded clothing, Barbie homeware brands with toothbrushes, inflatable pools for the summer heat waves, and multiple Barbie collaborations with beauty brands. 

If branded partnerships are out of reach, in-reel or premium placements at the cinema still offer a fantastic opportunity to command attention. Commercially, for Barbie at the UK cinemas, all three most viewed placements in reel before the film plays were sold out at DCM’s locations before the first trailer had been released – an extremely rare occurrence. The opportunities with film releases to dive into the hype culture and be a major part of the conversation are endless so that brands are front of mind to consumers.  

This cultural reset for cinema should give confidence to brands in the medium of cinema as the ultimate storytelling platform. Brands who have invested in this phenomenon are capitalising on the conversation and to highly receptive audiences. You do not get the same cinematic experience at home as you do at the cinemas, where it allows you to fully immerse yourself in the experience, leaving distractions at home. With fragmented video consumption an increasing part of the media landscape, this demonstrates that when the moment is right, audiences will be out by the masses to celebrate and so should brands. So, come on… Let’s go party! 


Article written by Alex Davies, Head of Broadcast and Cassie Root, Group Broadcast Director.