"Barbie" and "Oppenheimer" or "Barbenheimer"

‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ both receive CinemaScore grades as fans flock to double-down features

Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” entered opening weekend with incredibly high expectations. In addition to being highly anticipated works by top-notch auteurs, the two films were saddled with having to salvage a disappointing summer box office after films like ‘Indiana Jones and the Dial of Fate’ and ‘Elemental’ failed to catch on as cultural phenomena. Strong initial tracking and endless “Barbenheimer” memes about seeing the wildly divergent films as a double feature turned this into the biggest movie weekend of the summer.

While the box office numbers are still rolling in, moviegoers who have seen the films leave satisfied. CineScore revealed that both films received “A” ratings from fans following their release on Friday.

CinemaScore ratings are widely interpreted as a barometer of how well a film lives up to its audience’s expectations. It’s not uncommon for poorly reviewed films to receive excellent ratings, as survey participants are people who were already interested enough to pay to see the film. Conversely, acclaimed films may receive negative CinemaScore ratings for making bold choices that subverted audience expectations.

While “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” are two of the boldest studio films to be released in 2023, their marketing campaigns have never promised a conventional cinematic experience. Trailers and posters for “Barbie” teased an absurd and tongue-in-cheek take on the Mattel toy line. Critics were quick to declare that the finished product delivered on that promise.

“Gerwig and (Noah) Baumbach find both humor and nuance in everything from mini-fridges to the Matchbox Twenty hit ‘Push’, the masculine impulse to explain ‘The Godfather’ to the Supreme Court, the limits of modern feminism to neon-glowing Rollerblades,” IndieWire’s Kate Erbland wrote in her review. “Barbie isn’t just everything, ‘Barbie’ is everything.”

And while the prevalence of Cillian Murphy’s face in “Oppenheimer” marketing materials was occasionally scoffed at, Universal made no attempt to hide that it was releasing a cerebral biopic about Christopher Nolan.

“‘Oppenheimer’ offers an indelible portrait of the era when people began to wield power they couldn’t necessarily control, and few films have so unnervingly crystallized the horror of opening Pandora’s box,” wrote IndieWire’s David Ehrlich in his review of the film. “Even fewer have more detailed anxiety about living in a world where it can never again be shut down.”