A still from Oppenheimer

It’s a good time to go watch a film in the cinema, should you so want. Three Hollywood films have packed theatres for the last two weekends. International hysteria over the ‘Barbenheimer’ double feature spilled into Indian cinemas last Friday with both Oppenheimer and Barbie bringing on audiences. The week before belonged to Tom Cruise reprising agent Ethan Hunt in Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. The numbers speak for themselves – Barbie has outperformed Oppenheimer at the international box office but in India, it’s been the other way round. Opening day collections for the films totaled over Rs 14 crore net for Oppenheimer and almost Rs 5 crore for Barbie (which released in far fewer Indian screens than its competition). Mission: Impossible opened at about Rs 12 crore net. All three films have been stacking up the numbers since.

The films couldn’t be less alike. Oppenheimer documents the making of the atomic bomb; directed by Christopher Nolan, it stars Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr, Matt Damon, Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh. Greta Gerwig’s Barbie turns a Mattel IP into a feminist fable with the help of stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling. Tom Cruise does the heavy lifting in Mission: Impossible 7 as his Impossible Mission Force races to save the world against an AI-related enemy.

As trade analyst Taran Adarsh pointed out this morning, this Hollywood bumper edition fills in gaping blanks for exhibitors. He tweeted: “Hollywood coms to the rescue yet again. Have often said this and I repeat, box office can be very unpredictable but that’s the beauty of this business. Mission Impossible 7, Oppenheimer, Barbie. The three Hollywood biggies – released in the span of two weeks – have filled the vacuum of cinemas across India. If truth be told, the fantastic response to these three films at the box office has proved a blessing for the exhibition sector that was craving for good content, house full boards and packed auditoriums. Now that Hollywood has delivered a hat trick at Indian box office, one wonders, when will we witness a similar phase for Hindi movies?”

Read his tweet here:  

It’s hard to imagine three big Indian-made films being allowed to release in quick succession. The ‘Barbenheimer’ frenzy could be an education for desi filmmakers for whom a potential box office clash sometimes means a tailspin of PR rivalry and possible shifting of dates. Dharma boss Karan Johar’s recent meltdown on social media is a perfect demonstration – he wrote an indignant Thread about another producer’s film that had booked the same release date as one of his own “without the courtesy of a phone call.” KJo didn’t name the film but he was likely referring to Sriram Raghavan’s Merry Christmas, starring Katrina Kaif and Vijay Sethupathi, which will open on December 15, clashing with the Dharma-produced Yodha starring Sidharth Malhotra.

Karan Johar’s tone-deaf post said out loud what producers generally keep to themselves – the Indian film industry schedule releases in a manner that puts profit margins ahead of audience interests. In an almost satirical contrast, the ‘Barbenheimer’ memes began as a joke and then snowballed, with the biggest box office clash Hollywood has seen in a while eventually being embraced globally. The rewards have been plenty – glowing reviews and supersize earnings for both films.   

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