According to Variety, there wasn’t a lot of data as to which other movies have been overwhelmingly paired in such a fashion. Often, when a major blockbuster is nigh, other films tend to get out of their way, allowing the singular tentpole to open unopposed. That one film will attract all the media and audience attention for one week, while only smaller movies — presumably with a completely different audience — open opposite them. It’s rare that a blockbuster and its counterprogramming reach a similar fever pitch. It would take a lot of scanning through AMC’s box office receipts to discover which artificially constructed double feature was as successful as this one seems to be. It’s also notable that AMC only counted information from the members of its Stubs rewards program (which includes A-List, Premiere, and a free tier and tracks single-buyer purchases), and apparently had no way of tracking which casual buyers are merely buying two tickets for themselves in the open market.
Of course, part of the issue is parsing out which film between “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” counts as “the blockbuster” and which as “the counterprogramming.” Both films seem to loom large in the pop consciousness, and both are hotly anticipated.
And indeed, the two films may have more in common than one might assume at first glance. “Oppenheimer” takes place around 1945 during the earliest atomic bomb tests. The effect of the bomb on American culture was dark and forward-thinking at the same time. The bomb could now effectively remove cities from the world map, but also ushered in a curiously optimistic 1950s where it seemed like nuclear energy would fuel a grand future for America and the world. “Barbie,” meanwhile, is about a personified toy from 1959 that directly reflected the idealized pop images that 1950s America had created for its women.