Barbie Director Greta Gerwig Breaks Records With Ken-Ormous $162 Million Opening Weekend


Update 07/24/2023: Though Saturday ticket sales pointed to a $155 million opening weekend for "Barbie," Variety reports that the final tally is a Ken-tastic $162 million. The headline has been updated to reflect this. Original article follows.

If you popped into a movie theater in America this weekend, there's a good chance you saw a high concentration of the color pink. Moviegoers decked themselves out in neon pink, pastel pink, and every other shade of the hue to go see Greta Gerwig's "Barbie," and while "a whole lot of people in pink" isn't exactly quantitative data, we now have the box office numbers to prove that "Barbie" made a big debut. According to Variety, the movie raked in $155 million at the box office this weekend, earning back its reported production budget and smashing a few records to boot.

Gerwig now holds the highest-grossing opening weekend ever for a female director, as "Barbie" narrowly beat out the record set by "Captain Marvel" (co-directed by Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck). The Marvel movie had in turn topped the record set by Patty Jenkins with "Wonder Woman" just two years earlier.

Seven months into 2023, "Barbie" is also the biggest debut of the year so far for American audiences, besting the family-friendly "Super Mario Bros. Movie," which opened to $146 million domestically in April. While "Barbie" may not end up having the legs that the Illumination animated movie had internationally ("Barbie" has been banned in Vietnam and delayed in parts of Pakistan), it's certainly set to make history in the U.S. With "Oppenheimer" also raking in the dough, this weekend will be the biggest for moviegoers since the COVID-19 pandemic shut down theaters in 2020.

A whole lot of people visited Barbieland this weekend

Like a Barbie stepping down from her dream house, "Barbie" floated right past market expectations for its release this weekend, beating out projected box office numbers by upwards of $45 million, according to Forbes. That's a huge underestimation, and one that reveals Hollywood's blind spot when it comes to making movies that appeal to women. According to Variety, 65 percent of audiences polled at "Barbie" screenings this weekend were women, an inverse proportion of the typical audience makeup for movies with opening weekends north of $100 million (a category that, in the last decade at least, has largely belonged to superhero movies).

While the industry will surely try to package this success story into a bite-sized lesson, it's worth noting that there are probably multiple reasons "Barbie" sailed above expectations. There are lifelong or former fans of the dolls, sure, but the crowds also include fans of stars Ryan Gosling and Margot Robbie and director Gerwig, Barbenheimer double feature participants riding the high of internet memes, and plenty of people who may have simply been eager to find an excuse to dress up at the movies.

The lesson here shouldn't be that Mattel products make blockbusters, but that good, conversation-starting movies with a fun hook make blockbusters – and that men aren't the only people who go to the movies. /Film's BJ Colangelo called "Barbie" a movie that pulls off "an extravagant celebration of golden age musicals, intellectual musings on gender theory, and a moving embrace of femininity." The movie has also left audiences happy, earning an A CinemaScore and 90 percent across the board on Rotten Tomatoes. The Barbies were right: they really can do anything.

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