UK box office preview

Source: Dogwoof / Warner Bros / Universal

‘My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock’, ‘Barbie’, ‘Oppenheimer’

Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer both open at the UK-Ireland box office this weekend, in one of the most eagerly-awaited sessions in recent years.

Barbie is starting in 706 locations for Warner Bros – the fourth-widest opening for the studio, behind Elvis (744), Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets Of Dumbledore (712) and The Batman (708).

Universal has Oppenheimer in 675 sites – the widest opening for a Nolan film, ahead of the 642 of 2017’s Dunkirk.

Starring Margot Robbie as the Mattel toy and Ryan Gosling as Ken, Barbie sees the title character suffer a crisis that leads her to question her existence.

The film will set a new record box office for Gerwig; it is her third solo directorial feature, after 2018’s Lady Bird (opened: £1.2m; closed: £5.6m) and 2019’s Little Women (£3.6m; £22.2m). Her first foray into feature directing was low-budget independent title Nights And Weekends in 2008, co-written and directed with Joe Swanberg.

Barbie also marks Gerwig’s latest collaboration with her partner Noah Baumbach, with whom she co-wrote the film. The duo previously co-wrote 2012’s Frances Ha and 2015’s Mistress America, both directed by Baumbach; while Gerwig starred in last year’s Netflix title White Noise from the director.

The summer blockbuster will top the totals of all of those films; cinema operators have reported pre-bookings ahead of those for 2021’s James Bond title No Time To Die, which started with £21m and ended on £98m.

The record UK-Ireland three-day opening weekend is the £31.4m of 2019’s Avengers: Endgame. That will likely be beyond Barbie, although exhibitors have predicted the total weekend box office could reach the highest level since then. Analytics firm Gower Street is predicting a first weekend over £20m in 2020

More relevant comparisons would be the £21.2m opening of 2010’s Toy Story 3 – also based on children’s toys – and the £19.7m start of 2017’s Beauty And The Beast.

Among adaptations of commercial products, Warner Bros stablemate The Lego Movie showed what could be done with an £8.1m opening and £34.4m total in 2014.


Although it will not hit the heights of Barbie, Oppenheimer will aim to surpass Nolan’s previous non-franchise titles. With their distinct subject matters, the films appear to be assisting each other: Vue, the UK-Ireland’s third-largest cinema chain, has reported 19% of those who bought a ticket for Oppenheimer have also bought one for Barbie.

Oppenheimer is Nolan’s 12th feature film as director. Based on the 2005 biography American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, the film chronicles the life of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who was pivotal in developing the first atomic weapons.

Nolan’s record box office is the £56.4m of 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, the 2012 third entry in his Batman trilogy, which opened to £14.3m. That and 2008’s The Dark Knight (£11.2m; £49.3m) will likely be beyond Oppenheimer; but it will aim to overthrow the £4.4m start and £16.7m total of the first film, 2005’s Batman Begins.

More relevant comparisons are Nolan’s standalone films. His most recent release Tenet is a unique case, starting with £5.3m in August 2020 in the midst of the pandemic. It topped the box office for eight consecutive weekends, partly due to the lack of competition, with a total gross of £17.5m.

Prior to that, 2017 Second World War film Dunkirk started with £10.1m, buoyed to a £56.8m final amount by its strong performance at Imax venues – something Oppenheimer is looking to replicate, with 25 of the first 34 screenings at the BFI Imax venue already sold out.

Making its first film with Nolan after the filmmaker departed Warner Bros due to its HBO Max release strategy, Universal will hope Oppenheimer can top the total of 2014’s Interstellar (opened: £5.4m; closed: £20.9m), although the £35.8m of 2010’s Inception (from a £5.9m opening) may be beyond it.


Although Barbenheimer fever has saturated UK-Ireland screens, there are three other new titles in cinemas this weekend. 

Dogwoof is starting My Name Is Alfred Hitchcock, the latest documentary from prolific UK filmmaker Mark Cousins, on 11 screens this weekend. The film, which examines the legacy of the legendary UK director, debuted at Telluride Film Festival in September 2022, going on to events including Glasgow and Hong Kong.

Cousins – a vocal proponent of the cinemagoing experience – has shared his dissatisfaction at how few screens are available in cinemas this weekend, claiming that there are 7,000 screenings of Barbie in London over the first week alone.

National Amusements is playing CoComelon: Best Of Episodes, a 40-minute compilation of the pre-school animation show, in 70 sites; while Signature Entertainment is opening Matt Drummond’s fantasya adventure The Secret Kingdom in 60 locations.

Barbenheimer will squeeze holdovers more than usual; but there should still be space for screenings of Paramount’s Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, plus Disney’s Elemental and Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny.