I think we can officially call Barbie the hit of the year. The film made another $50+ million at the domestic box office this past weekend and now sits at around $459.4 million.
Add that to its $572.1 million from the foreign box office, and you’ve got a total of $1.03 billion worldwide through Sunday.
This movie is not slowing down either and will continue to climb.
‘Barbie’ Breaks Glass Ceilings
The Barbie movie is also breaking records and ceilings. It is the first live-action film, solo directed by a woman, to make over a billion. And it’s the highest-grossing domestic movie for a woman as well.
The big takeaway from this movie should be that women will come to the theaters if you make a movie for them.
I know this sounds like a lesson we should have already learned, and we should have, but Barbie once again proves there’s an incredibly powerful demographic underserved by Hollywood.
People of specific demongraphics want to go to the movies to see movies and shows that are made for them. That’s why diversity and inclusivity in Hollwyood is still and will always be a big deal.
What’s Barbie’s Effect on Hollywood?
I’m a huge fan of The Town podcast, and last week they did a breakdown of the success of Barbie and whether or not it would have an effect on female filmmakers. In that podcast, I learned that on opening weekend, women made up 69 percent of ticket buyers for Barbie domestically. In the film’s second weekend, it rose to 71 percent of domestic buyers.
Of course, Barbie casts a wider net than just women. It’s impossible to get to a billion dollars by serving just one quadrant, but women helped open the movie, sustain it, and their word of mouth brought many others in.
As of writing this, there are 53 movies that have crossed the billion-dollar mark at the movie office. Only nine of them have had female protagonists. Only one of them was directed by a woman.
Before you decide that dictates this movie is an anomaly, take into account that Hollywood has long ignored these stories and female filmmakers.
Hollywood doesn’t make these movies, so how would these movies ever get to a billion dollars?
On that episode of The Town, The Hollywood Reporter’s senior film editor Rebecca Keegan said, “[This] is a reflection of what Hollywood has chosen to back with its biggest budgets, its largest marketing spends, and who it has … given the opportunity to direct and write and star in these movies.” She continued, “So it’s a little hard to say that that’s responding to market forces versus that is a reflection of the culture that’s driven Hollywood for decades.”
So will Barbie have an effect on female filmmakers?
Female Filmmakers in a ‘Barbie’ World
It’s hard to articulate how Hollywood should actually address this change. It feels like we should already have some parity and progress in these areas.
The lessons learned should be to act on the things we’ve heard promised for decades: more opportunities for female filmmakers and an increase in budgets and chances for those people already working.
The real question is whether or not Hollywood will actually heed this call.
My inner capitalist says a billion dollars is too high for them to ignore. It’s so much money, I cannot imagine every studio isn’t rushing internally to find their Barbie movie. With that, studio-female filmmakers can help them capture an audience they’ve ignored.
But I have also read all the headlines about the toy projects that are in development. I know the short-sighted lesson could just be to give auteurs IP and stand back.
That’s usually a good lesson, but I’m not sure it captures this audience again if it’s made pandering, and not made because of artistic vision.
We’re going to find out a lot in the next few years.
Hollywood is changing so much so quickly. COVID-19 killed the box office, and as it tries to bounce back, everyone is looking for a cheat code to make it profitable right now.
That means searching for underserved markets and stories they can make a buck off, but it doesn’t usually mean sustained parity.
Time will tell where the success of Barbie leads.
For now, I remain hopeful that a post-Barbie world contains more opportunities and movies for all. And some long lessons finally learned.
Let me know what you think in the comments.