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‘Barbenheimer’ phenomenon sparks explosion in UK cinema ticket sales

Barbie and Oppenheimer were both released on Friday as two of the most hotly anticipated films released in years.

Vue International has said it had the biggest weekend for UK cinema ticket sales in four years following the release of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

The cinema chain said on Sunday that a fifth of its customers had purchased tickets to see both films in a social-media-inspired double bill known as “Barbenheimer”.

The two films, released on Friday, have very different storylines, with Greta Gerwig’s comedy about the eponymous doll, and Christopher Nolan’s biographical thriller chronicling physicist J Robert Oppenheimer’s role in developing the first atomic bomb.

More than 2,000 of Vue’s screenings for Barbie were sold out, according to the company.

The cinema chain’s biggest sites for Barbie included Cambridge, Glasgow St Enoch, Leeds Kirkstall, Cwmbran, Islington, Bolton and Portsmouth.

Vue said the film, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, will exceed ticket sales for Super Mario Bros and Oppenheimer to become the biggest film of the year.

Tim Richards, chief executive and founder of Vue International, said: “Vue saw its highest weekend admissions since Avengers: Endgame in 2019 with the release of Barbie and Oppenheimer, proving that when the movies are there, our customers will come to watch them on the big screen.

“Barbie is tracking to become the biggest film of 2023 and has a good chance of getting into the Top 10 highest-grossing films of all time.

“It is an incredibly exciting moment for the industry, and we expect this trend to continue for the coming weeks.”

In total, the cinema chain had more than 4,000 sell-out sessions across the country for both films.

Odeon reported on Thursday that more than 200,000 advance tickets had been bought and over 10,000 guests were expected to see both films during the opening weekend.

Universal Pictures said Oppenheimer, which stars Cillian Murphy and Florence Pugh, had made £8.05 million in the UK and Ireland since Friday.

The film production and distribution company said the biopic is on track to have a better opening three days than Nolan’s other blockbusters Dunkirk, Interstellar and Inception.

Sales have also soared across the pond with Barbie having the biggest opening weekend of any film in North America, taking $155m (£120m) and Oppenheimer pulling in $80.5m (£62.6m)

Farhan Mehmood, who watched Barbie at 2.30pm, followed by the darker Oppenheimer at 5.15pm with a friend, told the PA news agency the films can “save cinema”.

The 21-year-old from Scunthorpe, who volunteers in digital marketing, said: “Barbie had a deep message, it paid off (with what) it said in the trailer with the tagline, ‘If you grew up with Barbie, this film is for you. If you didn’t, then it’s also for you’.

“Oppenheimer, on the other hand, leaves you with a big shock, it’s… somewhat depressing and I absolutely think it can save cinema.”

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