Stills from "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part 1," "Barbie," "Oppenheimer"

‘Barbie’ will crown Greta Gerwig as the new box office savior

It would be a first for this summer – an opening no. 1 highly publicized that far exceeds projections.

Greta Gerwig’s (Warner Bros. Discovery) “Barbie” is already having a $100 million start, and according to industry sources, it has a shot at initially hitting $150 million. This is based on pre-sales, backed by rave reviews and a PR blitzkrieg that has kicked off organic interest.

We’re seeing a unique two-week confluence of three titles that have been hyped for years with newly opened ‘Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One’ (Paramount) and now ‘Oppenheimer’ (Universal) and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Oppenheimer’ and “Barbie.” It provides theaters with more excitement and anticipation than any other event in recent years. “Mission: Impossible” and “Oppenheimer” speak to the unique ability of presentation to elevate certain films, while “Barbie” is comedy and a shared celebration of an iconic symbol — a stellar example of the community experience offered by cinemas.

Together, the three films (along with the momentum of “Sound of Freedom”) will result in the biggest weekend of this year. All credit goes to Cruise, Gerwig, and Nolan for jumping into the game just as the summer was dealing with implosion.

Nolan and Cruise are used to the theatrical savior moniker; to their clan, we can add Gerwig. She’s poised for the best opening of the three, maybe by some margin, and she’ll probably be the biggest too.

“Mission: Impossible Showdown – Part One”

“Mission: Impossible” is expected to be close to $100 million in the US/Canada through Thursday after nine days. With the loss of premium theaters to “Oppenheimer” and the competition ahead, it should reach at least $200 million. It will probably double that in gross foreign exchange. It deserves credit for providing a satisfied and enthusiastic audience ahead of two other major releases.

Nolan’s claim to savior status stemmed from his insistence that “Tenet” be released in September 2021 when many theaters were still closed, and thus with an extended theatrical exclusivity. It made $58 million in the United States and Canada and went to $365 million worldwide. Its $200 million pre-marketing outlay made it a probable loss, but the rewards for struggling theaters were immense.

On paper, “Oppenheimer” is the least commercial of any Nolan film since “Insomnia.” A three-hour, partially black-and-white biopic starring Cillian Murphy is a risk, even before its $100 million premarket budget. We thank Nolan for making an unlikely original title so appealing to a sizeable audience and for using his technical preferences (70mm IMAX production) to crowd out the majority of premium screens and convince many viewers to seek out more expensive locations.


This could be a double-edged sword: The opening weekend gross could be held back by limited seating and fewer showtimes. That means audience reaction, even more than the rave reviews, will play a big part in whether this becomes a significant hit. The consensus suggests a $50 million opening. “Avatar: The Way of Water,” also limited, but nowhere near similar competition, grossed $134 million.

Then there is “Barbie”. The precedent here is “The Super Mario Bros. Movie”. They’re significantly different — ‘Mario’ is animated, aimed at a younger audience, and hasn’t gotten good reviews — but they’re both comedies (a genre that has lagged behind in theaters), very popular fantasy characters that have attracted fans for decades, and they offer a significant nostalgia factor. Add to this the stellar duo of Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, an up-and-coming filmmaker, and rave reviews.

All of these films could benefit from releasing after a disappointing summer in which too many titles either fell short of their openings or dropped faster than expected. What has been missing is that film that really excites the audience.

At least one of these, and maybe more, should fit. That three appear simultaneously at the end is the best news for theaters.