That Barbenheimer is a thing that happened in 2023 is still pretty amazing. Two blockbuster movies, as different as they could possibly be, became attached at the hip making it essential to see them both in theaters with all of one’s friends. There were memes, thousands of think pieces written, and Tik-Toks of eager young moviegoers in attendance. Personally, I think Oppenheimer was helped out significantly more by the connection, but undoubtedly Barbie reached people it probably wouldn’t have.
And yet, Barbenheimer might not have happened at all if an Oppenheimer producer had his way. Speaking with Cillian Murphy for a Variety piece, Margot Robbie revealed that producer Charles Roven, who she is friends with, called and asked her to move the Barbie release date so as to avoid a showdown. Robbie wasn’t having it.
“One of your producers, Chuck Roven, called me, because we worked together on some other projects,” Robbie said. “And he was like, ‘I think you guys should move your date.’ And I was like, ‘We’re not moving our date. If you’re scared to be up against us, then you move your date.’ And he’s like, ‘We’re not moving our date. I just think it’d be better for you to move.’ And I was like, ‘We’re not moving!’”
Roven knows a thing or two about blockbuster movies, but then again so does Robbie. As a producer herself, she had the power to make that kind of decision to keep Barbie right where it was. It didn’t always look like it would be this way, either. Oppenheimer had the date first, then Warner Bros. made a bold counterprogramming choice that obviously paid off. Barbie is the highest-grossing movie of the year with Oppenheimer not far behind. Barbenheimer mission accomplished.