Barbie makes history with record box office for woman-directed film

Greta Gerwig's Barbie has beaten off stiff competition to become the record holder for the opening weekend sales of a film directed by a woman.

The image shows a split screen from the premiers of the Barbie film. On the left is the film's director Greta Gerwig. She is wearing a baby pink sequinned dress. On the right is an image of actor Margot Robbie. She is wearing a bright pink skirt suit.
Image: @barbiethemovie via Instagram

They say “Cash is king”, but this week’s cash crown sits firmly on the queen’s head after the Barbie movie made history by becoming the highest-grossing opening weekend for a film directed by a woman.

Topping out at $377 million in worldwide ticket sales, Gretta Gerwig’s imagining of the Barbie dolls’ pink fantasy world saw the movie outstrip rival Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer by a whopping $200m in a blockbuster double-header weekend, dubbed ‘Barbenheimer’.

Having earned $162 million in ticket sales across North America, Barbie’s success also broke with tradition by garnering a predominantly female audience of approximately 65% during the opening weekend. 

Typically, films that open over $100 million in the US are attended by a majority male audience, including the two previous female-directed film record holders, Captain Marvel (2019) co-directed by Anna Boden, and Wonder Woman (2017), directed by Patty Jenkins.

The film sees the iconic toy figurine brought to life in the idyllic Barbie Land, where Barbies and Kens of all descriptions live happily ever after until one of the Barbies, played by Margot Robbie, experiences an existential crisis. Accompanied by her Ken, played by Ryan Gosling, the two venture into the ‘real world’ to find the answers to her questions.

Despite the film being hailed for its LGBTQ+ representation with queer actors Kate McKinnon, Alexandra Shipp and Hari Nef playing major supporting roles, NBC News critics Elaina Patton and Brooke Sopelsa suggest, “In fact, in the end, the film pushes a surprisingly traditional view of society, in which straight and conventionally attractive men and women (or Barbies and Kens) rule the world.”



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However, in a testament to Gerwig’s custom of scripting strong female characters, such as those of Lady Bird and Little Women, Patton and Sopelsa recognise, “What the film does feature is #MeToo-era feminism, girlboss rhetoric and a heavy helping of Mattel pride, which can be heard in the endless promotion of the Barbie slogan ‘You can be anything’ — which might inadvertently be the queerest thing of all.”

With such a strong feminist ethos, it remains to be seen whether Barbie can overtake Frozen II, co-directed by Jennifer Lee, to become the highest-grossing movie of all time directed by a woman.

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