Film Discussion

US Box Office Report: 21/07/23 – 23/07/23

Cinema saved by memes, and Other Box Office News.

OK, I’ll admit it.  For all the fun we’ve had with the Barbenheimer memes over the last half-year or so, I remained a bit sceptical of that discourse translating to actual tangible Box Office success.  I’ve been burnt many times over, in both matters of media and wider political landscapes – I’ll stop being bitter about the 2019 General Election when I’m dead and rotting in a ditch somewhere cos I can’t afford burial or cremation – when it comes to online sentiment not reflecting the actual public sphere.

Hell, it was only just last year that the Internet managed to successfully meme Morbius back into theatres just so Sony could be humiliated for a second time by the fact that nobody actually wanted to watch it.  And online chatter for years made it sound like the “Snyder Cut” of Justice League was all any film fan ever wanted, only for it to finally release in 2021 to half the first-week audience numbers of a Mortal Kombat reboot you already forgot was a thing.  Just saying, unlike the Mario movie (whose mega-success I saw coming a mile off), I remained disbelieving of those pre-release predictions expecting big things for both ends of Barbenheimer.

READ MORE: The Exorcist Legacy: 50 Years of Fear – Book Review

Therefore, it is with great pleasure that I eat multiple bowls-worth of crow because the meme so strong it has an actual Wikipedia entry was just responsible for the biggest weekend at the Box Office since Avengers: EndgameThe fourth-biggest weekend of all-time, in fact.  And, unlike all bar one of its competition on that particular chart, that statistic wasn’t carried by just the #1 movie of the weekend, either.

Both Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer significantly outperformed early expectations, marking the first time ever that (should estimates hold) two movies opened to over $80 million in the same weekend.  And, unlike the last time I can remember Warner Bros. & Universal programming a female-directed comedy and a male-directed (action-) drama against one another to mutually successful effect – Elizabeth Banks’ Pitch Perfect 2 and George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road in May of 2015 – nobody got bent out of shape in a manufactured “REAL CINEMA” gender war, instead just celebrating each films’ successes!  (Unless you write for The Guardian, but nobody takes that clown-show of a culture section seriously anymore.)

© Universal Pictures.

Unsurprisingly, given that it’s the PG-13 family comedy based on an iconic toy of the two, Barbie was the one which came out on top of the friendly rivalry, selling off $155 million worth of dayglo plastic toys and fabulous cloth outfits.  This makes Barbie the best opening ever for a female director, soaring past Captain Marvel’s $153 million; the first movie to open past the $100 million mark without any IMAX screens since The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part One in 2011; and the biggest opening for any film without an IMAX screen ever.

It also holds the 24th biggest opening weekend of all-time (at time of writing since Actuals could change) and, if you want to strip out all sequels and remakes – and that is including The Avengers and Black Panther since they are arguably sequels in the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe, don’t @ me about this – is technically the biggest opening for a franchise debut ever.  All this before we even talk about the international side of things, where Barbie added another $182 million, the biggest non-sequel opening ever for a Warner Bros. release.  In the UK, it’s the biggest opening of 2023 (likely cos Mario opened on a Wednesday but still).  Madness.

READ MORE: Barbie – Film Review

None of this is to discount Oppenheimer’s achievements, however.  In fact, this R-rated three-hour spectacle-free and ultra-bleak biopic is scoring the biggest non-Batman opening of Nolan’s career to date.  $80.5 million in any other weekend would be a runaway #1 smash result, and the international arm of $93.7 million is also the best of any non-Batman Nolan film.

IMAX undoubtedly played a heavy role in that total; Deadline reports that a full 20% of its worldwide gross came from those premium format screenings where you can really feel like you’ve been vapourised by a horrifying all-powerful mushroom cloud ($35 mil).  But that’s still the best worldwide opening for any biopic ever, felling the wretched Bohemian Rhapsody beast ($124 mil total compared to Oppenheimer’s $174.2 mil), and the second-best-ever domestically behind American Sniper ($89.3 mil).  Oh, and just like Barbie, it has an ultra-shiny “A” Cinemascore which should set it up well as the release slate enters the August cool-down period.

Friends, Cinema is officially BACK!  We’ve saved it at last!  So, obviously, now’s the perfect time to start gutting the release slate for the rest of the year in a self-immolating blackmail effort against the striking union workers who need to be PAID WHAT THEY ARE FUCKING OWED AND TREATED WITH THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE.

The new Full List Barbie comes loaded with ten pieces of mildly-amusing commentary, fully-articulated arms that you can throw in the air to represent chronic procrastination, and a general vibe of crushing self-loathing!  Available at all good toy retailers from Set The Tape!

US Box Office Results: Friday 21st July 2023 – Sunday 23rd July 2023

1] Barbie

$155,000,000 / NEW

Got told off by a guy leaning over the seat behind me at a 9:20pm Saturday night screening of this for laughing too loud about 40 minutes in.  Other than the self-conscious dysphoric loathing that sent me into, the movie’s pretty fantastic!  Lee Thacker presumably didn’t have such issues, so his is the review you’ll want to read this week.

2] Oppenheimer

$80,500,000 / NEW

The most I have enjoyed the first viewing of a Nolan film since Inception and maybe outright his best film since then?  (Dunkirk clicked with me a lot more on a second viewing, and the last hour of Oppenheimer makes me think I’ll rate the whole even higher with a second go-around.)  Certainly has the most moving, charged, and haunting cinema of the man’s career.  Really glad to feel this way about a Christopher Nolan movie again, it’s been a frustrating decade-plus for him.  Dave Bond’s similarly over the moon.

3] Sound of Freedom

$20,140,647 / $124,748,584

One of the big reasons why this movie is doing so astronomically well week-in-week-out is because of its ‘pay it forward’ system.  During the end credits, star Jim Caviezel appears on-camera as himself along with a QR code/site link urging viewers in the cinema to buy more tickets directly through the distributor (Angel Studios) that can be redeemed by “someone who would not otherwise be able to see the film”.  Supposedly, this is resulting in sold-out screenings which are, in actual fact, quite empty because tickets are being sold but not redeemed.  Yes, this does sound highly suspicious and casts a dubious light on the film’s alleged popularity, now that you mention it…

4] Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One

$19,500,000 / $118,753,469

Some might argue that Dead Reckoning’s total crash out of 64% in its sophomore weekend is indicative of Paramount’s choice to release the film at the absolute worst possible time – barely nine days before Oppenheimer stole all of its IMAX screens which were pushed heavily in both films’ marketing as the way to see them – and that they should’ve listened to Tom Cruise’s (alleged) pleas of moving the release date.  They’re probably correct.  I’m instead choosing to believe the collapse is indicative of the movie being FUCKING SHIT.  What a waste of 160 minutes of my ever-shortening life.

5] Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

$6,700,000 / $159,018,862

I had planned my Saturday to be Indy into Oppie into Barbie, but the Cineworld Sheffield was actually so busy that I couldn’t get parked for 20 minutes and was unable to make the remaining Indy screening for the day, hence my pivot to Mission: Impossible in its stead.  Genuinely the busiest I can recall that cinema in all my years of going, and there were screenings for Barbie and Oppenheimer which were sold out hours in advance.  People are excited for theatrical movies again, y’all!  Almost like studios should STOP BEING BITCHES AND ACQUIESCE TO THEIR FUCKING WORKERS.

6] Insidious: The Red Door

$6,500,000 / $71,001,673

Fancy your horror less “BOO!”-y and more “cannibals, mutant children, and racial purity”-y?  Then has Second Sight ever got the re-release for you!  Shaun Rockwood’s been looking at Xavier Gens’ 2007 provocation Frontier(s)!

7] Elemental

$5,800,000 / $137,233,827

Finally saw Nimona this week.  This is now a Nimona stan account.  Cannot imagine what this would’ve looked like if Disney hadn’t cancelled the first incarnation when they shuttered Blue Sky Studios.  Likely would’ve been about five minutes long when they took out all of the beautiful trans subtext, openly homosexual romance, ACAB sentiments, anarchistic critique of outdated capitalist structures…  A beautiful, hilarious, vulnerable masterwork.  Go watch it.  Be a shark, nom nom.

8] Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

$2,815,000 / $375,209,269

The Flash has released in NFT form on the blockchain and its revolutionary features amount to a mid-00s DVD menu game.  These clowns have invented DVD menus.  On the blockchain.  When does this cross the line from “funny” to “just plain sad?”  I don’t know anymore.

9] Transformers: Rise of the Beasts

$1,120,000 / $155,642,604

Yes, I do love the new Blur album despite only having had the time to listen to it once so far.  Thanks for asking.

10] No Hard Feelings

$1,075,000 / $49,210,693

I think we can all agree that the most aspirational romances are the ones where at least one party is a homicidal vigilante of questionable moral character.  #relatable, amiright?  Chris Haigh’s been looking at one such example with Julie Mae Cohen’s newest novel, Bad Men.

Dropped out: Joy Ride, The Little Mermaid

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