'Barbie' Just Enjoyed the Australian Box Office's Biggest Opening Weekend for a Film by a Female Director

All of those 'Barbenheimer' doubles also notched up Australia's biggest-ever Saturday and Sunday takings.
Sarah Ward
Published on July 25, 2023

Let's go party, indeed: Barbie is here, filling Australian cinemas with pink-hued cheer, and slaying both the patriarchy and the Australian box office. Greta Gerwig's Margot Robbie-starring take on the famous doll packed picture palaces not just with every shade of not-quite-red it could, but with people, breaking a Malibu DreamHouse worth records in the process.

If you noticed plenty of fellow filmgoers watching this trip to Barbie Land, then Los Angeles, then back with you last weekend, that was the experience mirrored around the country. In fact, Barbie notched up the biggest opening at the Australian box office for 2023 so far, raking in $21.5 million including preview screenings.

The stats keep coming, but the best is truly historic: Barbie enjoyed the biggest opening weekend for a film directed by a female filmmaker.

It earned that same huge opening weekend title for films with any of Robbie, Gerwig and Ryan Gosling (The Gray Man) involved. Now that's some Kenergy. Also, Barbie helped smash even more records as part of the double feature of 2023: Barbenheimer.

Thanks to both Barbie and Christopher Nolan's vastly dissimilar atomic-bomb thriller Oppenheimer, the Aussie box office saw its biggest-ever Saturday and Sunday takings. On Saturday, July 22, $11.1 million spent bested the $10.3 million recorded in April 2019 when Avengers: Endgame released. On Sunday, July 23, the $10.5 million gross topped the $9.96 million taken in December 2105 — on the Boxing Day public holiday on December 27, in fact — as fuelled by Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens, plus Boxing Day releases.

Specific cinemas also broke past records. At Sydney's Hayden Orpheum Picture Palace, the independent theatre scored its highest-grossing weekend in its 88-year history. Oppenheimer in 70mm notched up the cinema's highest-grossing opening ever, while Barbie now sits second in that same category.

At Melbourne's Cinema Nova, the also-independent cinema looks set to earn its biggest box-office week of all time. If it does, it'll break the record set in January 2020, when Gerwig's Little Women was playing alongside films like Jojo Rabbit and Parasite. Barbie also took the opening-week record from Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, and might become the first film by a female filmmaker to hit the venue's top ten of all time list. As for Oppenheimer, it's in the top ten biggest opening weekends.

It shouldn't be lost on anyone that Barbie and Oppenheimer's successes mean that two movies that aren't part of long-running franchises have audiences flocking in. Neither film comes in as the fifth or 11th or 17th or 31st entries in a long-running saga, and don't we all know and love it. Here's the big takeaway: more of that please, especially given that oh-so-much of what reaches the silver screen is a sequel, prequel or chapter in a sprawling universe these days.

Check out the trailers for Barbie and Oppenheimer below:

Barbie is showing in Australian cinemas now. Read our review.

Oppenheimer is also showing in Australian cinemas now. Read our review, too.

Published on July 25, 2023 by Sarah Ward
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