Behind the record-setting numbers of Barbenheimer

By Ruby Derrick | 16 August 2023
Guy Burbidge.

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie is now the 7th highest grossing film of all time in Australia, with 3.72 million admissions and $70.2 million at the box office. 

For Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimerit’s become the fifth highest grossing drama film of all time, and the second highest grossing non-Batman film of Nolan’s career. It’s garnered 1.6 million admissions in Australia and has made $31.2 million at the Australian box office. 

Guy Burbidge, managing director at Val Morgan, told AdNews that the success of Barbie and Oppenheimer came down to a number of factors. 

Fundamentally, the content has to stand up on its own two feet, said Burbidge, who notes Barbie and Oppenheimer are two very different films but both with incredible directors 

Barbie was brilliantly executed. It has demonstrated appeal across generations and is what we call a four-quadrant film – reaching a young female skew, right through to an older demographic,” he said. 

Burbidge said the marketing of Barbie most likely played quite a significant role in the film's success.

The brand IP partnerships ensured that Barbie and the colour pink were effectively everywhere, and that had a huge effect on the outcome of the film. And the cinematic showdown of Barbie and Oppenheimer created the social trend of Barbenheimer which swept the internet by storm,” said Burbidge. 

He also notethat July was a strong month for cinema with the release of Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One, Barbie and Oppenheimer.  

We had a combination of three different titles, all delivering something different for audiences,” said Burbidge.  

But ultimately, Barbie was the standout and has over-delivered in every way. 

For cinema advertising, Barbie’s success has made it a true cultural moment.  

Burbidge believes that when there is one of those moments driven by appointment viewing, in a world that is encouraging people to stream and consume content whenever they want, there is real inherent value for brands in that. 

“We see from our own results that being part of those big cultural moments, from a sponsorship perspective, delivers a much better outcome than just buying spots and dots,” he said. 

“It's around a minimum 50% better outcome for brands in driving brand appeal, consideration and preference.” 

For brands associated with the films, they get dragged along with the phenomenon, he notes.  

It’s a really interesting opportunity for brands. I’m hoping that the way the marketing was executed will act as a positive example of what can be achieved when aligning with the IP of movies,” said Burbidge. 

It’s also a great opportunity for brands to leverage great content, great talent and great cultural moments to drive a great outcome.” 

The success of these two films has empowered the medium of cinema, and, as a result, cinema advertising in today’s landscape.  

Burbidge said advertisers are looking for the ability to reach mass audiences, and to reach them in the right cultural environment.  

“What Barbie and Oppenheimer have done is talk to our inherent strengths as a channel. You haven’t been able to buy a ticket for a premium cinema experience over the past few weeks,” he said. 

As a result of the packed cinemas, brands have also benefitted from this, said Burbidge. 

He notes that all of these factors came together with the natural attention benefits that Val Morgan has delivered.  

“It puts us in a really good position, and these big cultural moments in cinema really challenge the traditional TV specials as the first and only choice of how to appear in Australian media culture,” he said. 

“When clients are choosing big cultural AV moments, we believe we have a strong story to tell and should be part of the mix when they consider TV specials.” 

For Burbidge, it’s difficult to say when something will have a cultural impact.  

“If you look back at the last 18 months, the four films that have made such an impact in their connection with audiences were Spider Man: No Way Home, Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar: The Way of Water and Barbie,” he said. 

“These four films have made it into the top seven of all time, not just post-pandemic, which really speaks to the health and strength of cinema. 

“Barbie could potentially be a $1.2 billion global film and it could even break into the top five films of all time in Australia.” 

The cultural phenomenon is dependent on the quality of content,says Burbidge, who also believes that it’s not just Hollywood producing big hits. 

Pathaan, which was released earlier this year, took less than two weeks to become the biggest Bollywood film ever in Australia," he said.

"There is a real demand for international titles on Australian shores, and we’re in such a unique position to give brands the opportunity to connect with culturally and linguistically diverse audiences.” 

Next year the slate looks really exciting, said Burbidge.  

“With Kung Fu Panda 4,Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire, Despicable Me 4, Mission: Impossible 8, and Wicked: Part One, all releasing.” 

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