Greta Gerwig should be feeling closer to fine these days. In just three weeks in theaters, Barbie is set to sail past $1 billion in global ticket sales, breaking a record for female directors that was previously held by Patty Jenkins, who helmed Wonder Woman.
Barbie, which Gerwig directed and co-wrote, added another $53 million from 4,178 North American locations this weekend according to studio estimates on Sunday (Aug. 6). The Margot Robbie-led and produced film has been comfortably seated in first place for three weeks and it’s hardly finished yet. Warner Bros. said the film will cross $1 billion before the end of the day.
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In modern box office history, just 53 movies have made over $1 billion, not accounting for inflation, and Barbie is now the biggest to be directed by one woman, supplanting Wonder Woman’s $821.8 million global total. Three movies that were co-directed by women are still ahead of Barbie, including Frozen ($1.3 billion) and Frozen 2 ($1.45 billion) both co-directed by Jennifer Lee and Captain Marvel ($1.1 billion), co-directed by Anna Boden. But, Barbie has passed Captain Marvel domestically with $459.4 million (versus $426.8 million), thereby claiming the North American record for live-action movies directed by women.
New competition came this weekend in the form of the animated, PG-rated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem and the Jason Statham shark sequel, Meg 2: The Trench, both of which were neck-in-neck with Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, also in its third weekend, for the second-place spot.
Meg 2 managed to sneak ahead and land in second place. It overcame its abysmal reviews to score a $30 million opening weekend from 3,503 locations. The Warner Bros. release, directed by Ben Wheatley, currently has a 29% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes and a B- CinemaScore from audiences. The thriller was released in 3D, which accounted for 22% of its first weekend business.
Third place went to Oppenheimer, which added $28.7 million from 3,612 locations in North America, bringing its domestic total to $228.6 million. In just three weeks, the J. Robert Oppenheimer biopic starring Cillian Murphy has become the highest grossing R-rated film of the year (ahead of John Wick Chapter 4) and the sixth-biggest of the year overall, surpassing Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Oppenheimer also celebrated a landmark, crossing $500 million globally in three weeks. Its worldwide tally is currently $552.9 million, which puts it ahead of Dunkirk, which clocked out with $527 million in 2017, and has become Nolan’s fifth-biggest movie ever. It’s also now among the four top grossing biographies ever (company includes Bohemian Rhapsody, The Passion of the Christ and American Sniper) and the biggest World War II movie of all time.
Paramount’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was close behind in fourth place with an estimated $28 million from 3,858 theaters in North America. Since opening on Wednesday, the film, which is riding on excellent reviews (96% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audience scores, has earned $43.1 million.
“This is one of those movies that is a multigenerational joy,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “I think the enduring popularity of Turtles is showing its true colors. And there hasn’t been an animated film in eight weeks and there won’t be another for eight weeks which is great for us.”
Turtles cost $70 million to produce and features a starry voice cast that includes Jackie Chan, Ice Cube, Paul Rudd, Ayo Edebiri and Seth Rogen, who produced and co-wrote the film, which leans into the “teenage” aspect of the turtles.
Barbie, Oppenheimer and even the surprise, anti-trafficking hit Sound of Freedom (now at $163.5 million and ahead of Mission: Impossible 7) have helped fuel a boom at the box office, bringing in many millions more than was expected and helping to offset pains caused by some summer disappointments.
“After The Flash, Indiana Jones and, to a certain extent, Mission: Impossible, people were saying the summer was a disappointment. But it’s not over yet,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “We’re going to have a summer that is going to go out on a high note.”
But the moment of triumph for the industry will likely be short lived if the studios can’t reach an agreement with striking actors and writers soon. The fall release calendar has already gotten slimmer, with some studios pushing films into 2024 instead of trying to promote them without movie stars.
Sony had planned to release its PlayStation-inspired true story Gran Turismo in theaters nationwide next Friday, but will now be rolling it out slowly for two weeks before going wide on Aug. 25. The thinking? If movie stars can’t promote the film, maybe audiences can.
“We have to be realistic,” Dergarabedian said. “We’re on this emotional high of movies doing so well, but we have to temper our enthusiasm and optimism with the fact that the strike is creating a lot of uncertainty. The longer it goes on the more profound the issues become. But the audience has spoken and they love going to the movie theater.”
Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.
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