“Barbenheimer” Bonanza Boosts the Economy

July 28, 2023

Last weekend, the highly anticipated summer movie Barbie opened in theaters to rave reviews and huge ticket sales, earning $162 million in just a few days. Of course, Barbie wasn’t the only film to make a splash at the box office: the 3-hour long drama Oppenheimer also enjoyed a big weekend with domestic receipts totaling $82.5 million. The success of these two films follows months of viral marketing that made light of the stark differences between sunny and bright Barbie and the dark and brooding biopic Oppenheimer

While the latter took a more subdued approach with its promotional strategy, Barbie amassed over 100 official brand partnerships that made the movie almost inescapable. And once social media users noticed Oppenheimer was scheduled to be released in the same weekend, the “Barbenheimer” meme was born. Along with discussing which movie they would see first over the weekend, people also posted the outfits they planned to wear on the opening night of their preferred film. This combination of traditional brand partnerships and viral word-of-mouth marketing gave huge boosts to both movies, creating a must-see atmosphere that theaters have not enjoyed since before the pandemic. 

In fact, Bank of America claims that “Barbenheimer” fever has already had a noticeable effect on the economy. According to the financial giant, this month its cardholders decreased spending in many categories like online electronics, home improvement, and furniture. Meanwhile, spending on entertainment surged by more than 13 percent compared to the same week the previous year. Bank of America concluded that this increase in entertainment spending is “likely partially driven by the release of the much-anticipated movies, Barbie and Oppenheimer.” The toy company Mattel plans to follow the success of Barbie with movies based on other iconic brands like Polly Pocket and Hot Wheels. Still, only time will tell if the company will be able to recapture the same unique magic that made Barbie so big, especially in a Hollywood currently wracked with labor strife.


  1. How did traditional marketing and online word-of-mouth combine to make both Barbie and Oppenheimer major blockbusters? 
  2. Do you think Mattel will be able to repeat its Barbie box office success with movies about its other toy brands? Why or why not?

Sources: Matt Egan, “‘Barbenheimer’ Is Stimulating the Economy,” CNN, July 27, 2023; Rachel Treisman, “Fans Flock to Theaters for the ‘Barbenheimer’ Double Feature,” NPR, July 22, 2023.