Summer Box Office Hits $4 Billion After All, Thanks to ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’

Few were expecting the bomb and the bombshell to save the summer box office. But thanks to the sky-high ticket sales for Greta Gerwig’s very pink “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s supremely dark “Oppenheimer,” domestic revenue hit $4 billion between May and August for the first time in the pandemic era.

“As a seemingly out of reach goal just a couple of months ago, the $4 billion domestic summer season box office has become a reality over Labor Day weekend, reflecting not only a strong lineup of films, but the desire by audiences to embrace the time-honored tradition of going to the movies in the hottest moviegoing season of the year,” says senior Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian.

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“Barbie” is the highest grossing film of the summer (and the year) with $612 million in North America and $1.36 billion globally to date. “Oppenheimer” also wildly outperformed expectations with $311 at the domestic box office and $850 million worldwide.

Other top stateside earners this summer include Sony’s animated “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” ($381 million), Disney and Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” ($358 million), “The Little Mermaid” remake ($298 million) and the Jim Caviezel-led action thriller “Sound of Freedom” ($181 million). Those blockbusters helped to make up for underperforming tentpoles like DC’s superhero adaptation “The Flash” and Disney’s remake of “Haunted Mansion.”

This year’s revenues managed to improve upon last summer’s $3.4 billion haul, led by “Top Gun: Maverick” with a heroic $718 million. Popcorn season continues to improve upon the COVID-stricken years of 2021 ($1.75 billion) and 2020 ($176 million), but it hasn’t yet reached the pre-pandemic heights of 2019 ($4.38 billion), according to Comscore.

“That’s a fantastic result and another positive step for the industry,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research.

That’s the good news. The unfortunate reality is that this fall’s movie slate is light, except for the deus ex machina of Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour” concert film, which opens in October and could rake in $100 million in its initial weekend. Otherwise, the film release calendar is relatively light after “Dune: Part II” moved to 2024 and Sony’s comic book adaptation “Kraven the Hunter,” the “Ghostbusters” sequel” and Zendaya’s tennis drama “Challengers” were delayed because actors can’t promote the blockbuster-hopeful during the ongoing strike.

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