With the box office success of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” movie theater owners are riding high in the culture again — a rare feeling since the COVID-19 pandemic walloped multiplexes and turned the film business upside down.
(Nicole Vas / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)
“Barbie,” from Warner Bros., has collected an astounding $351 million in ticket sales from the U.S. and Canada, while “Oppenheimer,” a Universal Pictures release, has amassed $174 million. Both have exceeded the industry’s wildest expectations, with extraordinary second weekend staying power, and given theater operators a much-needed shot of adrenaline.
Meanwhile, the indie child trafficking drama “Sound of Freedom” has continued to put up staggering numbers, reaching $149 million so far.
The bad news: uncertainty is back.
Sony Pictures on Friday delayed the release of multiple high-profile films, pushing its “Ghostbusters” sequel and “Kraven the Hunter” into next year and removing the highly anticipated “Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse” from the calendar. The shuffle comes as studios contend with the consequences of the ongoing writers’ and actors’ strikes, which have hobbled production and marketing efforts. Luca Guadagnino’s Zendaya-fronted “Challengers” had already been moved into 2024.
Other studios may soon follow suit. That would be a serious blow to theatrical circuits that are still in recovery mode and enjoying the celebratory atmosphere of “Barbenheimer.”
I spoke last week with Brock Bagby, a top executive at Liberty, Mo.-based B&B Theatres, which operates 57 locations comprising 529 screens serving the American heartland. The family-owned exhibitor, which has a nearly 100-year history, runs the fifth largest theater circuit in the U.S. I asked Bagby for his take on the state of the business and how the labor strife brings concerns at a time when things are finally looking up.
What have the last couple of weeks been like for you with the success of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer?”
Yeah, it’s been extremely exciting. We have broken every record we’ve ever had as a company. Biggest single day ever. Biggest weekend ever. Biggest week ever. Now, some of that is because we’ve grown. We’ve added a lot of theaters since 2020, so that helped with our overall sales. But there’s just tremendous box office excitement unlike anything I’ve seen since “Avengers: Endgame” in 2019.