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'Barbie' sets records, 'Oppenheimer' strong in box office battle

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LOS ANGELES: The new "Barbie" movie starring Margot Robbie as the iconic doll ruled theaters over the weekend, hauling in an estimated $155 million to set the record for the biggest domestic opening of 2023, distributor Warner Bros. said on Sunday.

Director Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer," about the making of the atomic bomb, beat expectations with $80.5 million at domestic theaters in a cinema battle dubbed "Barbenheimer." The tallies provided a welcome boost to studios and theaters that have endured a disappointing summer so far. Ticket sales have hovered below last year despite a larger number of films at cineplexes. The "Barbenheimer" frenzy, over two highly anticipated but completely different movies opening simultaneously, had theaters buzzing.

"Barbie" is "Little Women" director Greta Gerwig's take on the doll that debuted 60 years ago. The $155 million debut topped the $146.4 million for "The Super Mario Bros." in April and ranked as the highest domestic opening ever for a female-directed film. Mattel launched an all-out global marketing blitz to stoke the frenzy, lighting up London landmarks in pink and partnering on products from Barbie fashions to a Barbie X-box console. Many fans wore pink outfits screenings and theaters offered pink cocktails and glittery popcorn. The drama "Oppenheimer" stars Cillian Murphy as American scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man who developed the atomic bomb.

The movie has drawn rave reviews and is expected to be a contender in the coming Academy Awards race. The movie added $93.7 million in international markets, for a global total of $174.2 million, distributor Universal Pictures said.

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