This summer, the two most highly anticipated movies of the year, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, will be released in theaters on the same day, July 21. The simultaneous release of the two movies will culminate into the fan-made movie crossover event known as “Barbenheimer”. The Barbenheimer craze continues to spread as filmmakers and actors from both movies draw attention to the viral phenomenon, jumping onto the trend of doing back-to-back viewings of the two deeply contrasting movies.
The combination of fan excitement and film industry encouragement over Barbenheimer has resulted in; “Summer movie-goers…relishing the chance to celebrate a one-day cinematic experience of watching two polar-opposite films back-to-back,” as stated by the Times.
The Barbenheimer phenomenon started when movie fans noticed Nolan’s Oppenheimer and Gerwig’s Barbie shared the same theatrical release date. Fans noted the humor of two starkly contrasting movies, differing vastly in theme and tone, sharing a release date. The situation prompted memes and online humor about the circumstances surrounding the two movies. As the comedy of the situation escalated, cinephiles joked and made memes online about viewing the films back-to-back, sparking inspiration for one of the strangest double features in cinema history.
The online buzz about these memes culminated into the creation of Barbenheimer, the popular name for the viral phenomenon. As advertising for the two films ramped up, so did Barbenheimer memes, overtaking the online marketing for both films. Soon, advertising for either film meant drawing attention to the other.
While both films benefit from the increased marketing they’ve received from Barbenheimer memes, the question of whether the viral trend is rooted in competition or not is unresolved. Pop culture media outlet Vulture reports: “The two highly anticipated films arriving on the same day has been tantalizing the internet for months now, but as D-Day (July 21, for what it’s worth) looms closer and closer, conversation on the Barbenheimer phenomenon has reached a fever pitch. But are the two at war or not? People seem [to be] divided. Some are fervent supporters of one side, while others are simply happy to have two interesting, non-sequel movies out on the same day.”
Regardless of whether or not Barbenheimer is a competition, Vulture definitively states that the trend is a net positive for both films. The trend has proven to be an effective marketing phenomenon for both films, with Vulture saying, “Barbie fans may be the best thing to happen to Oppenheimer.”
The team behind Barbie were the first to acknowledge Barbenheimer, being “quicker to acknowledge the promotional opportunities of this counterprogrammed moment,” Vulture said. Margot Robbie and Greta Gerwig, the leading actress and director of Barbie, seemingly hopped on the Barbenheimer train after sharing photographs on Twitter of them holding three movie tickets, confirming that they would see Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning and Oppenheimer. Robbie and Gerwig posted their photo to possibly replicate action star Tom Cruise’s photo, which also showed him buying tickets to the upcoming summer blockbusters. “The duo’s support comes in response to Cruise, who, on Wednesday (28 June), tweeted photos of himself standing with three movie tickets to Harrison Ford’s newest Indiana Jones sequel, Christopher Nolan’s war drama and Gerwig’s Barbie,” as reported by the Independent.
Cruise, who has expressed his passion for supporting the film industry, gushed that he would be partaking in the Barbenheimer double feature trend. “‘I love a double feature, and it doesn’t get more explosive (or more pink) than one with Oppenheimer and Barbie,’ he enthusiastically said to the Independent.
Soon after, the Oppenheimer cast and crew finally chimed in on the Barbenheimer craze. Christopher Nolan, director of the WW2 historical drama, shared a similar sentiment as Cruise; happy that the incidental circumstances which created the viral phenomenon would be fruitful for the film industry. When asked about Barbie sharing a release date with his film in an IGN article, Nolan said,“Summer, in a healthy marketplace, is always crowded, and we've been doing this a long time…I think for those of us who care about movies, we've been really waiting to have a crowded marketplace again, and now it's here and that's terrific.”
Actor Cillian Murphy, who plays the titular character in Nolan’s film, expressed his excitement and commitment to Barbenheimer. "I think it's great. I mean, I'll be going to see Barbie. I can't wait to see it,” Murphy said to IGN. Murphy also resonated with Cruise and Nolan, noting Barbenheimer’s positive effect on the film industry; “I think it's just great for the industry and for audiences that we have two amazing films by amazing filmmakers coming out the same day. Could spend a whole day in the cinema, what's better than that?"
With both casts and crews for Barbie and Oppenheimer expressing explicit support for the Barbenheimer phenomenon, attention to the trend and two films are skyrocketing. Whether or not Barbenheimer is a cinematic contest or a double feature delight, July 21 will be a win for movie fans and box offices alike.
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