(Washington) The American box office is set to experience a stark contrast at its peak this weekend, with the most anticipated films featuring an iconic doll on one side and the inventor of the atomic bomb on the other.

Since Friday morning, hundreds of thousands of North American moviegoers have been rushing into dark rooms to watch Barbie and Oppenheimer.

Early numbers in the US and Canada point to one of the best weekends of the year for the industry.

The feature film about the pink doll has already accumulated more than 22 million dollars in receipts for the previews, 10.5 million for that around the first nuclear weapon, according to Boxoffice Pro.

And Barbie could end the weekend at 150 million, surpassing the performance of Avatar’s second installment last December.

“The expectations are so huge that what we’re trying to determine is not whether it will be successful, but how big that success will be,” Boxoffice Pro editorial director Daniel Loria told AFP.

More than 200,000 spectators have even planned to go see one then the other on the same day by the end of the weekend, according to the National Association of Theater Owners.

Already, the simultaneous screening of the two blockbusters has fueled a wave of jokes and diversions on social networks, spectators having fun considering their clothing transformation from one film to another, but also the appearance of a range of specific derivative products, a trend already nicknamed “Barbenheimer”.

The online communications strategy for Barbie has “taken like wildfire, attracting an entire generation as well as an underappreciated female audience,” as director Christopher Nolan attracts his own die-hard fans, notes Shawn Robbins, chief analyst for Boxoffice Pro.

“They found themselves mixed in what seems to be an unexpected digest of popular culture, which expressed itself through the phenomenon ‘Barbenheimer'”, he adds in an interview with AFP.

An effect that could “have heightened interest in both films in a way that neither would have done otherwise, had they been released on different dates,” Robbins insists.

An opinion that is joined by David Gross, of the firm Franchise Entertainment Research, for whom the films will help each other rather than be in competition, by creating envy among moviegoers.

“Cinephiles are taking it and making it their own thing,” according to David Gross, “I don’t remember anything like that happening.”

“Oppenheimer is more for men, older people, while Barbie is more for women and younger people,” he said, “but I think everyone” can go see both.

“The theater was full at 10:30 a.m. this morning, it was a little crazy,” says Eric Adams, a 27-year-old salesman in New York, who will go see Barbie at the end of the evening, for lack of tickets available at more usual times.

From Colorado, 35-year-old Emma McNealy says she would have rather watched Oppenheimer from home on stream, but the talk of “Barbenheimer” around her prompted her to return to the big screen.

Hollywood, despite the ongoing double strike among screenwriters and actors, is also getting caught up in the game.

Tom Cruise, starring in a new Mission: Impossible installment, tweeted his excitement for both films. In return, Barbie director Greta Gerwig and star in the title role, Margot Robbie, showed up with tickets to the Tom Cruise film.