Barbenheimer and Redefining Movie Marketing Strategies

Jason Clough & Paul Dergarabedian
July 23, 2023
It’s a critical time for the industry, and we’ve seen a real boost for the theatrical movie business, with the double release of Barbie and Oppenheimer globally. Barbie: The Movie has taken the box office by storm, redefining the concept of female-led blockbusters. Domestically, Barbie's $162 million opening weekend proved its appeal to audiences, while Oppenheimer netted an impressive $82.4 million. This performance catapulted Barbie to the top of this year's biggest domestic opening weekends thus far while Oppenheimer overperformed and grabbed a place on the Top 10 list of 2023 debuts. This one-two punch powered one of the biggest overall weekends in industry history

The total box office domestically this opening weekend was $311 million, with Barbie accounting for 52% of all the films viewed. For context, in the past 5 years, some of the strongest box office releases: Avengers: Infinity Wars
Star Wars: The Force Awakens, scored $314.8 million and $313.2 million, respectively based on Comscore data.


"It's truly unprecedented to witness not just one, but two films perform so remarkably well and mutually bolster each other with the Barbenheimer trend,” said Comscore Senior Media Analyst, Paul Dergarabedian. “I'm hard-pressed to recall any comparable instances in history where both movies experienced growth thanks to their interdependence."
While both films have performed well at the box office on opening weekend, instead of choosing between the two we’ve seen some audiences going to the cinema to watch both releases as a double feature.

“I expect this boost to the Box Office to extend beyond these two releases to other films opening this summer, it’s a stellar period for theatres,” Mr. Dergarabedian said.

In the age of digital media dominance, social media platforms have become instrumental in promoting movies to a global audience in the lead-up to opening weekends.

Looking closely at the Barbie movie’s engagement on social, the popular short-form video app TikTok has proven to be a major driver. It’s seen significantly higher view counts on TikTok compared to other platforms like Facebook and Twitter.

In comparing Barbie and Oppenheimer content on social, we can draw from data on the biggest release of last year, Avatar: The Way of the Water.


Taking a closer look at the distribution of views across different platforms, while Avatar 2 enjoys a broad reach across all platforms, Oppenheimer recorded its second-highest number of views on Facebook. This could suggest a specific demographic or audience segment on Facebook that has shown particular interest in the movie, making it an intriguing aspect for marketers to explore further.

Oppenheimer," the highly anticipated film directed by a visionary filmmaker, has been making waves with its thought-provoking story. While this movie didn’t capture social attention in the same way Barbie did, it’s hard to envision it would have, since these movies appeal to two very different sets of moviegoers.

UK Premiere video
for Oppenheimer on TikTok amassed 24m video views in the lead-up to the premiere while Italian social media personality Khabane “Khaby” Lame’s post interacting with actor Robert Downey Jr. about getting the video to the theater for the premiere captured 16m+ views while a
Krasinski photo bomb
offered a fun cameo for fans. In general, much of the Oppenheimer content has used a clever strategy of leaning into, rather than away from, the fact that the movie opens the same weekend as Barbie – which may actually help.

What sets Barbie apart from the other two films is its unmatched success on TikTok, captivating millions of users with its
unique AI filter
that transforms selfies into Barbie-like characters.

The success of Barbie on TikTok not only speaks to the platform's reach but indicates the effectiveness of a well-executed marketing strategy. The broader take out is that by catering to the preferences and demographics of each social media platform's user base, movie marketers can tailor their promotional efforts to maximize engagement and viewership.


The viral success of Barbie the Movie has had an unexpected ripple effect. It has reignited interest in older films like
Legally Blonde
, with Google Searches for the 2001 classic skyrocketing by 700% on July 19th and increased searches for
Mean Girls
– which we coincidentally saw spike just two days before the Barbie movie premiere.

There are further learnings for brands aligned with these releases, such as Mattel. Along with its Barbie Social Handles, the craze of Barbieland is successfully reaching out to previously untapped audiences who haven't engaged with their brand on social media in the past six months. We see this play out when we personify the two different social footprints of engagers using Comscore’s Social Affinity data alongside the ability to easily see the massive increase in the number of distinct people who engaged on Instagram, as an example, with the fashion doll and fictional character’s content.


This newfound exposure to a broader audience presents a key opportunity for long-term growth and market expansion. It encourages marketers to find creative and immersive ways to connect with audiences.

With the right approach, movies can engage meaningfully with audiences before the curtain raises on opening weekend. As the film industry continues to evolve, the role of social platforms will help theatrical releases maximize their reach in the digital era. Measurement is the best partner for ensuring success in flight and gauging impact when a film’s theatre run is complete.
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