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‘Barbie’ joins $1 billion club, breaks another record for female directors

Writer/director/executive producer Greta Gerwig poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film 'Barbie' on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, in London. (Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP)

Writer/director/executive producer Greta Gerwig poses for photographers upon arrival at the premiere of the film ‘Barbie’ on Wednesday, July 12, 2023, in London. (Scott Garfitt/Invision/AP)

Greta Gerwig should be feeling closer to fine these days. In just three weeks in theaters, “Barbie” is set to sail past $1 billion in global ticket sales, breaking a record for female directors that was previously held by Patty Jenkins, who helmed “Wonder Woman.”

“Barbie,” which Gerwig directed and co-wrote, added another $53 million from 4,178 North American locations this weekend and $74 million internationally, bringing its global total to $1.03 billion, according to studio estimates on Sunday. The Margot Robbie-led and produced film has been comfortably seated in first place for three weeks and it’s hardly finished yet. It crossed $400 million domestic and $500 million internationally faster than any other movie at the studio, including the Harry Potter films.

“As distribution chiefs, we’re not often rendered speechless by a film’s performance, but Barbillion has blown even our most optimistic predictions out of the water,” said Jeff Goldstein and Andrew Cripps, who oversee domestic and international distribution for the studio, in a joint statement.

In modern box office history, just 53 movies have made over $1 billion, not accounting for inflation, and “Barbie” is now the biggest to be directed by one woman, supplanting “Wonder Woman’s” $821.8 million global total. Three movies that were co-directed by women are still ahead of “Barbie,” including “Frozen” ($1.3 billion) and “Frozen 2” ($1.45 billion) both co-directed by Jennifer Lee and “Captain Marvel” ($1.1 billion), co-directed by Anna Boden. But, “Barbie” has passed “Captain Marvel” domestically with $459.4 million (versus $426.8 million), thereby claiming the North American record for live-action movies directed by women.

Warner Bros. co-chairs and CEOs Michael De Luca and Pam Abdy also praised Gerwig in a statement and said the milestone, “is testament to her brilliance and to her commitment to deliver a movie that Barbie fans of every age want to see on the big screen.”

New competition came this weekend in the form of the animated, PG-rated “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem” and the Jason Statham shark sequel, “Meg 2: The Trench,” both of which were neck-in-neck with Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” also in its third weekend, for the second-place spot.

“Meg 2” managed to sneak ahead and land in second place. It overcame its abysmal reviews to score a $30 million opening weekend from 3,503 locations. The Warner Bros. release, directed by Ben Wheatley, currently has a 29% critics’ score on Rotten Tomatoes and a B- CinemaScore from audiences. The thriller was released in 3D, which accounted for 22% of its first weekend business.

Third place went to “Oppenheimer,” which added $28.7 million from 3,612 locations in North America, bringing its domestic total to $228.6 million. In just three weeks, the J. Robert Oppenheimer biopic starring Cillian Murphy has become the highest grossing R-rated film of the year (ahead of “John Wick Chapter 4”) and the sixth-biggest of the year overall, surpassing “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.”

“Oppenheimer” also celebrated a landmark, crossing $500 million globally in three weeks. Its worldwide tally is currently $552.9 million, which puts it ahead of “Dunkirk,” which clocked out with $527 million in 2017, and has become Nolan’s fifth-biggest movie ever. It’s also now among the four top grossing biographies ever (company includes “Bohemian Rhapsody,” “The Passion of the Christ” and “American Sniper”) and the biggest World War II movie of all time.

Paramount’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was close behind in fourth place with an estimated $28 million from 3,858 theaters in North America. Since opening on Wednesday, the film, which is riding on excellent reviews (96% on Rotten Tomatoes) and audience scores, has earned $43.1 million.

“This is one of those movies that is a multigenerational joy,” said Chris Aronson, Paramount’s president of domestic distribution. “I think the enduring popularity of ‘Turtles’ is showing its true colors. And there hasn’t been an animated film in eight weeks and there won’t be another for eight weeks which is great for us.”

“Turtles” cost $70 million to produce and features a starry voice cast that includes Jackie Chan, Ice Cube, Paul Rudd, Ayo Edebiri and Seth Rogen, who produced and co-wrote the film, which leans into the “teenage” aspect of the turtles.

“Barbie,” “Oppenheimer” and even the surprise, anti-trafficking hit “Sound of Freedom” (now at $163.5 million and ahead of “Mission: Impossible 7”) have helped fuel a boom at the box office, bringing in many millions more than was expected and helping to offset pains caused by some summer disappointments.

“After ‘The Flash,’ ‘Indiana Jones’ and, to a certain extent, ‘Mission: Impossible,’ people were saying the summer was a disappointment. But it’s not over yet,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “We’re going to have a summer that is going to go out on a high note.”

But the moment of triumph for the industry will likely be short lived if the studios can’t reach an agreement with striking actors and writers soon. The fall release calendar has already gotten slimmer, with some studios pushing films into 2024 instead of trying to promote them without movie stars.

Sony had planned to release its PlayStation-inspired true story “Gran Turismo” in theaters nationwide next Friday, but will now be rolling it out slowly for two weeks before going wide on Aug. 25. The thinking? If movie stars can’t promote the film, maybe audiences can.

“We have to be realistic,” Dergarabedian said. “We’re on this emotional high of movies doing so well, but we have to temper our enthusiasm and optimism with the fact that the strike is creating a lot of uncertainty. The longer it goes on the more profound the issues become. But the audience has spoken and they love going to the movie theater.”

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

1. “Barbie,” $53 million.

2. “Meg 2: The Trench,” $30 million.

3. “Oppenheimer,” $28.7 million.

4. “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem,” $28 million.

5. “Haunted Mansion,” $9 million.

6. “Sound of Freedom,” $7 million.

7. “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part I,” $6.5 million.

8. “Talk to Me,” $6.3 million.

9. “Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani,” $1.5 million.

10. “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” $1.5 million.

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