‘Barbenheimer’ could bring best movie-going weekend in nearly a decade; How KC theaters are getting dolled up for the blockbuster
Local theaters are expecting a blockbuster weekend, thanks to a highly anticipated and unlikely double feature opening Thursday.
Dubbed “Barbenheimer,” the high-profile films “Barbie” — a fictionalized focus on the doll-turned-fashion icon — and “Oppenheimer” — centering around the leader of the U.S. atomic bomb project — are opening on the same day and creating a pre-pandemic-like buzz for movie going.
Adam Roberts, the co-operator and owner of Screenland Armour Theater in North Kansas City, said pre-sales for the “Barbie” movie have doubled that of the business’ previous record holder — 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.” Many people are scooping up tickets to both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” with plans to make a day of it, he added.
“This is such a unique moment,” Roberts explained. “It feels like momentum has been building for four months — at least since the ‘Barbie’ trailer came out.”
With the recent prevalence of action movies, he expects the two movies to draw an underserved crowd out to the theater for the first time in a few years.
“I think people are just excited to watch real movies back in theaters,” he continued. “We’ve seen some failures this year with superhero films and I think that we’re just seeing the exhaustion of that type of product.”
Roberts is encouraging everyone — no matter where they plan to see the hyped movies — to buy their tickets in advance.
“People are underestimating how popular and big ‘Barbie’ is going to be,” he said. “I think the studio is very conservative with their expectations. If all the theaters are like ours, it’s gonna be an astronomical weekend for ‘Barbie’ and for movie theaters because we have two great films coming out right in the middle of summer.”
“A lot of people are like, ‘This is so weird that they’re playing these two huge films in the same weekend and they’re so different,’” he continued. “It’s been three or four or five years — Hollywood used to do that all the time — two big films that are very different from each other would come out in the same weekend.”
Like many other theaters around the metro, Roberts noted Screenland is making the weekend an experience, especially when it comes to the “Barbie” movie, with a life-size Barbie box for photos, food and drink specials, T-shirts, giveaways, and trivia.
The Rewind Video and Dive Bar in the basement of the theater is expected to feature themed cocktails — using J. Rieger spirits — like the Pink Cadillac and Fat Boy.
“It looks like it’s going to be really hot, starting this weekend and next week in Kansas City, which there’s nothing better to do on a hot day than just disappear into the air conditioning and spend a couple hours at the movies, eating popcorn and snacks.”
Union Station — which is showing “Barbie” on its extreme screen — is celebrating with a pink and white building light show, a new “Let’s Go Barbie” Alpha-Lit KC photo op installation, and a special display of vintage Barbie dolls and accessories from a collection owned by the Kansas City Museum.
B&B Theaters — which operates the Mainstreet KC location at the Power & Light District — is serving Think Pink and The Bomb cocktails in select locations and rolling out the pink and black carpet, plus having mannequins in Barbie and Ken outfits, Barbie box photo ops, runway contests, and Pink Out specials.
“We are certainly very excited for what appears to be a potentially record-breaking weekend,” said Paul Farnsworth, the Overland Park-based chain’s executive director of communication and content.
“We’re anticipating a great time and tons of guests,” he continued. “The ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ combo coupled with great holdover content like ‘Mission Impossible’, ‘Sound of Freedom’, and ‘Indiana Jones’ has created a perfect storm of four quadrant cinema. Our presales are the strongest post-COVID and are rivaling even our best historic weekends ever.”
Although they’re in opposing genres, Roberts noted, both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” have great reviews, acclaimed directors, and star-studded casts.
“People are like, ‘Oh, a Barbie movie that actually looks fun and unique’; it’s escapism,’” he explained. “And then with ‘Oppenheimer,’ Christopher Nolan is one of the few directors, I think, who people don’t even need a trailer to want to see the film. You can just say, ‘Here’s the new Christopher Nolan movie’ and he’s going to get a huge crowd out. I don’t think people are necessarily excited to see how the atomic bomb was made, but I think that they’re all going to go because they love him.”
After watching its screening, Roberts said, don’t sleep on “Barbie.” It’s deeper than one might think.
“I think there was some surprise on how serious the film gets in moments and how kind of existential it goes,” he added.
Both movies raise compelling talking points, he noted.
“They’re smart and they will create conversations between people, which is, I think, great for people,” he continued. “I don’t think anybody’s gonna expect that in ‘Barbie.’ You’re gonna laugh and you’re gonna cry. Then you’re going to be like, ‘Wow, we can actually have an interesting conversation about this.’ And of course, ‘Oppenheimer’ has a lot of questions that it raises about humanity and what we’re doing. So I think I know it’s a very exciting weekend for everybody.”