The simultaneous release of the Barbie and Oppenheimer mega-productions coupled with poor weather forecasts resulted in the best weekend for Quebec cinemas since the start of the pandemic.
A pink wave still swept through downtown Montreal on Sunday, two days after the premiere of Barbie. Fans had come from far and wide for the occasion.
“We had decided which day we would come to see the film last April! exclaimed Saige, who came to see the film with three of her friends and her mother at the Scotiabank Cinema. The latter, Joanne, who received her first Barbie 62 years ago, talks about how it is an intergenerational phenomenon.
The box office figures for the two films in Quebec should be known on Monday, but the first North American data suggested a glorious weekend.
Barbie (Warner Bros.) has reached No. 1 at the box office, grossing US$155 million so far in North American theaters across 4,243 theaters. Greta Gerwig’s film thus had the best start of the year, overtaking The Super Mario Bros. Movie as well as every Marvel movie released in 2023. It also broke the first-weekend grossing record for a movie directed by a woman.
Less popular, but still hugely popular, Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer (Universal) also exceeded expectations, grossing $80.5 million from 3,610 theaters in the United States and Canada. This is the best result for a Christopher Nolan film outside of the Batman series. R-rated biographical dramas (films banned for under-17s unless accompanied by an adult in the United States) rarely enjoy such popular success in their first weekend.
Their success has been felt in many venues across the province. “A double outing, a rainy weekend at the same time, we can speak, in several cinemas, of a record weekend for several years”, confirms the spokesperson for the Association of Quebec Cinema Owners (APCQ), Robert Plamondon.
After two years marked by health measures where Quebec cinemas were unable to use their theaters to their maximum capacity, before their full reopening in February 2022, this inflow of money is welcome.
“We’re completely in a different mind. The set of theaters is progressing quietly with the set of quality releases and releases,” he explains, adding that “without question” the appeal of Barbie and Oppenheimer has made them top sellers for a long time.
The media hype around the two feature films certainly contributed to this record box office, but the start of the construction holidays and the bad weather forecasts of the last two days also played a role, argues Robert Plamondon.
As with any big film release, the broadcasters had taken care to ensure the proper functioning of their equipment and to have sufficient manpower to accommodate moviegoers, which is not an issue at this time of the year, specifies the spokesperson for the APCQ.
Some connoisseurs who would have liked to see the Oppenheimer film in its original version, on a 70 mm tape, may however be disappointed since “very few theaters […] maintain this equipment”, says Robert Plamondon.
Michael Jensen came with his friends from Cornwall, Ontario, on purpose to see the film in this format at the Scotiabank Cinema in downtown Montreal. La Presse met him on the sidewalk of Sainte-Catherine Street, through the sea of pink shirts of fans who came to see Barbie.
The man, who also wore a pink shirt, but by chance, does he plan to go see Barbie and thus complete his “Barbenheimer”? “We’re thinking about it,” he said, all smiles, next to his friends.
And for those who would like to see other big productions, several are still showing, insists Robert Plamondon. Examples include Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, and Elemental.
As for those who would like to encourage Quebec cinema, “the safe bet” is the film The Time of a Summer, with Patrice Robitaille, he believes. The release of My Mother’s Men on August 4 is also highly anticipated.
“It’s almost impossible not to find a film that may interest us currently in theaters in Quebec,” concludes Robert Plamondon.