Sabrina Sanchez
Jul 21, 2023

How Oppenheimer capitalized on Barbie’s marketing success

As moviegoers buy tickets for a “Barbieheimer” double feature, Oppenheimer gets a boost from Barbie’s marketing blitz.

Getty Images
Getty Images

One of film’s biggest canon events is upon us as box offices prepare to open for “Barbieheimer” on July 21.

On Friday, movie-goers across the country will hit theaters to watch two starkly different, highly-anticipated films: Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer

Hype around the upcoming blockbusters has drawn social media chatter for weeks – about Barbie’s mega-marketing, Oppenheimer’s suspense and the unexpected desire to see both back-to-back. 

For Barbie, which has made a concerted marketing effort to be, quite literally, everywhere, a successful opening weekend may be unsurprising. 

Mattel’s EVP and global head of Barbie and dolls, Lisa McKnight, told multiple outlets that being “everywhere” was always the goal. Its 100-person marketing team, more than 100 brand partnerships and massive budget to co-promote the movie with Warner Bros. are part of a long-term investment in the Barbie brand to sell dolls to kids and adults for years to come. 

In its pursuit to be everywhere, the brand has left no stone unturned. Barbie has collaborated with brands from Progressive, Pinterest, Bumble and Burger King to Roku, Chevrolet, Aldo and Tangle Teezer. Mattel has launched OPI nail colors, Amazon collections, clothing collabs and even a life-size Airbnb Malibu dream house. Its soundtrack is filled with a star-studded lineup, from rappers Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice to Latin American superstar Karol G. 

A by-product of Barbie’s heavy marketing push and anticipation has been to bring another film along for the ride. 

Oppenheimer’s Barbie-like stardom

Oppenheimer, Christopher Nolan’s $100 million production about the American scientist behind the development of the atomic bomb, has earned almost as much conversation online by often being associated with Barbie

The conversation dates as far back as April 2022, when each movie’s release date was announced to fall on the same day.

Since then, social media has buzzed about the anticipation of both, notably comparing and making jokes about each studio’s marketing strategy, offering comical suggestions. 

But despite Oppenheimer and Universal Pictures taking a more traditional marketing approach – running fewer partnerships and using a lot less hot pink – excitement for both films have led movie fans to make memes and tease a double-feature, with many looking to watch both on the same day. 

As of July 17, AMC reported that over 40,000 customers have already purchased double bill tickets, highlighting the widespread interest in “Barbieheimer.”

Barbie is projected to earn $110 million in its opening weekend. Despite a smaller marketing budget, Oppenheimer doesn’t track too far behind – projected to gross $50 million in its opening weekend, according to Forbes

While Barbie may gross higher sales on opening weekend due to its hype and appeal for younger audiences, Oppenheimer may eventually catch up, as it has a longer run time and adult audiences don’t prioritize opening day showings as much as younger viewers.

Barbie cost approximately $145 million to make before marketing, while Oppenheimer cost $100 million to produce. However, it is unclear where Barbie’s movie promotion budget ends and Mattel’s $534.3 million annual marketing spend begins, with many speculating that additional investments from the toymaker could lead the movie to shatter box office projections exponentially. 

Some speculation has circulated online that the two marketing teams might be in cahoots, but neither Universal Pictures or Warner Bros. have confirmed collaboration. Neither replied to Campaign US’ requests for comment.

Regardless of which is fueling which, both movies have become synonymous with one another. 

And as opening day approaches, the debate now is which one people will watch first. 

Campaign US

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