Home / News / ‘Oppenheimer’s haul of over $900 million is an important moment for Hollywood and cinemas’ for filmmakers

‘Oppenheimer’s haul of over $900 million is an important moment for Hollywood and cinemas’ for filmmakers


Hopes were always high for Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer.” The studio knew the movie was great and commercial. But no one in the industry expected a long, talky, R-rated drama released at the height of the summer movie season to earn over $900 million at the box office.

After an early screening, “Dune” filmmaker Denis Villeneuve said he knew he was watching “a masterpiece.” He even remembered saying it would be a huge success.

“But the current situation has turned my projection upside down,” Villeneuve told the Associated Press. “It’s a three-hour movie about people talking about nuclear physics.”

As of Monday, “Oppenheimer’s” global total was about $913 million, making it Nolan’s third-highest-grossing film after the “Dark Knight” sequels. It also includes “Barbie” and “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and became the most successful biopic ever, surpassing “Bohemian Rhapsody.” This is a staggering sum, driven by audiences of all ages and interest in films and large format releases.

“When you make a movie, you hope that you will connect with the audience in one way or another,” “Oppenheimer” producer Emma Thomas told the AP. “But this kind of success is beyond our wildest dreams, especially in a three-hour film that has a serious subject and is challenging in so many ways.”

Even after nine weeks in theaters, 11 of the 25 screens capable of projecting the coveted IMAX 70mm prints (Nolan’s preferred format) continued to play the film at some of the busiest screens in Los Angeles, including the TCL Chinese Theater and AMC Lincoln Square. in New York.

“The reason we’re still in those theaters is because the audience demanded it,” Thomas said. “This is not something we can impose; we wish we could, but it’s reality.”

Thomas, who is married to Nolan, has produced all of his films, dating back to his short film “Doodlebug.” From “Memento” and “The Prestige” to “Inception,” “Interstellar” and “Dunkirk,” his original films have often defied conventional box office logic. They were happy with what they did with “Oppenheimer,” but they also knew that the market and box office tracking was a bit unpredictable since the pandemic.

“Chris has always made movies that challenge audiences,” Thomas said. “He trusts his audience and generally they meet him where he is.”

Their “pipe dream” was to surpass the opening weekend of “Dunkirk,” he said. Instead it nearly doubled. Many in the industry now look at Universal Pictures’ release of “Oppenheimer” as welcome confirmation that projection and format are not the domain of just a few. Mass audiences are also interested.

“When a filmmaker as powerful as Chris points his finger at you and tells you where to go… you listen… and audiences are rewarded for it,” filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson wrote in an email. “I know some movie buffs who traveled from El Paso to Dallas to see the movie properly. “That means about an 18-hour round trip.”

Of the 25 top-grossing theaters showing “Oppenheimer,” 24 played the play in IMAX 70mm or 70mm. Domestically, 25 IMAX 70mm screens grossed approximately $20 million; standard 70mm positions accounted for over $14 million. And this was a decade after production of Kodak motion picture stock had nearly ceased.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who wouldn’t agree that seeing ‘Oppenheimer’ on film was superior in every way,” Anderson said. “However, people say, ‘Why would I go to the movies to watch TV?’ They got tired of asking. Good question…there is no need for that anymore.”

Theaters rallied around “Oppenheimer” from the very beginning. The historic TCL Chinese Theater even reactivated a movie projector and built a special booth. It was a richly rewarded effort: “Oppenheimer” became the highest-grossing film in its 97-year history with $2.3 million, surpassing the previous record holder, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” which grossed $1.5 million over 15 years. leaving. just four weeks later.

But the highest-grossing theater overall is AMC Lincoln Square, where every IMAX 70mm screening sold out for more than four weeks. Both venues are among 10 venues that will continue to present the film in IMAX 70mm in its 10th weekend. In contrast, “Dunkirk” wrapped up its IMAX 70mm run in week eight.

What to do when movie theaters that project movies on film often leave digital projection behind?

“This is what I call nature’s way of healing,” Anderson said.

Nolan and other influential movie buffs like Anderson, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino have been beating the drum for celluloid for years, but Thomas said he feels like this is a moment where “everyone is kind of catching the bug.”

“Chris always talked a lot about formats and wanting people to see the best possible version of the movie the way he intended it to be seen. … Now I hear that there are other studios that want to show their films on these screens,” he said. “We don’t think film is the only way. Every project is different and requires a different set of tools. “We always wanted filmmakers to have that option.”

And it’s not just movies that are successful. IMAX made its biggest profit ever from “Oppenheimer,” with revenues exceeding $179 million worldwide.

“The future of cinema is in IMAX and large formats,” Villeneuve said. “The audience wants to see something that they cannot see at home or on broadcast. “They want to experience an event.”

About a month into “Oppenheimer’s” run, Thomas took his kids to a “Theatre Camp” matinee and peeked into the auditorium where his movies were playing “just to see what it was like.”

“Friday night, opening weekend, it was packed around 7 p.m.,” he said. “But the amazing thing was seeing a wide variety of people at that screening. There were young people, there were old people. “This excitement in cinemas is the reason why we make films.”

Thomas found it particularly gratifying that the film was reaching younger audiences and teenagers; He was told repeatedly that he didn’t have the attention span for a movie like “Oppenheimer.”

“We have young people, and everyone ignores them as potential viewers,” Thomas said. “They think they don’t like long storytelling or big ideas, and that’s complete nonsense. … Honestly, it’s incredibly moving to hear people talk about the movie and hear that young people will watch it over and over again.”

At a time when even the biggest movies are typically released in homes just 45 days later, “Oppenheimer” continues to be released exclusively in theaters in the fall. Although its opening weekend companion, “Barbie,” is available on new video-on-demand, “Oppenheimer” won’t be available for home viewing until the end of November, Thomas said.

As for what will happen to the 600-lb, 11-mile-tall IMAX 70mm prints, Thomas laughed that after nine weeks of use, some will probably need a little rest. But he hopes there will be opportunities for re-releases with those in good condition.

“We have been incredibly lucky in our careers. We’ve had great moments before. “We had very successful films that allowed us to continue making films,” he said. “But when you look at what the movie is and how it plays out, I think this movie is the most successful.”

Its importance to filmmakers extends beyond a single film.

“Some people have this idea that movies have become content rather than an art form. “I hate the word ‘content,’” Villeneuve said. “The fact that films like ‘Oppenheimer’ are released on the big screen and become events reintroduces the idea that this is a tremendous art form that should be experienced in theaters.”


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