Explosive demand for the 'Barbenheimer' casts shows why neither movie will bomb

22 July, 2023

The cinematic event of the summer is here with the premiere of Warner Bros’ Barbie and Universal’s Oppenheimer this week. There has been no shortage of coverage hyping the faceoff between these two movies, so rather than pitting them against each other yet again we wanted give a more nuanced look into the strengths of each movie beyond the demand in the lead up to their premiere, one of several important leading signals of how movies ultimately will perform at the box office. 

The Barbenheimer phenomenon has evolved from a simple meme into 40,000 people purchasing the double feature at AMC theaters alone, warranting a further look at the demand drivers for the two movies, including talent demand for the cast and an understanding of what type of audiences they are likely to draw to theaters.

Undoubtedly, the cast of a movie is one of the most important factors that energizes audiences to go and see it. Parrot Analytics has assessed the global talent demand for the casts of each film and found that of the two, the Barbie stars shine brighter with global audiences than the cast of Oppenheimer, at least for now.


We measured the demand of the 15 most in-demand actors in each movie’s cast to get a read on how much the talent of these films is exciting audiences.  While the average demand for the cast of Barbie has consistently led Oppenheimer in the months leading up to their premieres, the demand for the talent in both casts has more than tripled in the last three months.  

A complicating factor due to the recent strikes is that actors are not allowed to promote their movies. The strike already led to the cast of Oppenheimer walking out of its London premiere. So, although the actors on screen will still be a major draw to get audiences into theaters, the power of talent to go out and promote their work will be hindered by the current situation.

Even though Barbie has more star power behind it than Oppenheimer, the way audience attention is distributed across these casts is different. Barbie leans into its star-power with the two most in-demand actors in either of the two movies - Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling.


Barbie herself, Margot Robbie, has by far the highest global demand of any of the two movies’ actors heading into opening weekend. From June 17-July 16, 2023, Robbie was 39.9x more in-demand than the average talent worldwide. This places her into our Exceptional demand bucket, meaning she was in the top 0.04% of all talent across all professions during this time.

Before Oppenheimer, Cillian Murphy’s highest profile role was as Thomas Shelby in the BBC/Netflix Original Peaky Blinders. In the thirty days after that show’s series finale debuted on Netflix in 2022, Murphy’s global demand was 6.76x. During the final lead up to the Oppenheimer debut, Cillian Murphy’s demand is all the way up to 18.8x — a 178% increase over his post-Peaky Blinders average.  

With two blockbusters like these premiering on the same weekend the natural question is how much will Barbie and Oppenheimer cut into each other’s box office haul. Interestingly, some have questioned whether the fact that these two movies are premiering the same weekend stems from Christopher Nolan’s feud with Warner Bros. and his decision to move to Universal for Oppenheimer. While we may never know if Warner Bros. intentionally scheduled Barbie to overlap with Nolan’s traditional release weekend, it looks as though the Barbenheimer effect may ultimately do more to help both movies succeed.


Looking at the demographics of the audiences for both films we can see that they are almost mirror images of one another when it comes to both gender and age breakdowns. Unsurprisingly, the Barbie audience is 66.2% female, while the Oppenheimer audience is 70.7% male. Barbie’s audience is significantly younger, with 74.6% under the age of 29, with nearly half (46.6%) below the age of 22. A majority of Oppenheimer’s audience is over 30 (52.9%).

What does this mean?  The people showing up to watch Oppenheimer and Barbie were always going to be different. While we won’t have consumption data on these two movies until after they premiere, (at which point we will be able to get a granular view on what other content these audiences are watching and trace their behavior) the inverse demographics of the audiences of these two movies is a good indicator that they will not be cannibalizing moviegoers from each other. In fact, pitting the two movies against each other may end up benefiting both by creating a cultural event and driving audiences to see the other film that they might not normally have watched.

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