The Big Picture
- Labor Day weekend featured the release of The Equalizer 3, Barbie becoming the year’s biggest hit, and the summer box office surpassing $4 billion for the first time since the pandemic began.
- The summer box office success can be attributed to Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer, which together generated over $2 billion in global box office revenue, contributing to the overall $4 billion milestone.
- Other major hits like The Super Mario Bros. Movie, Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and The Little Mermaid made significant contributions to the summer box office success.
Even though the Labor Day weekend this year is expected to be rather uneventful in terms of overall revenue, it’ll become notable for hosting three major box office events. First, this week’s new release, The Equalizer 3, is poised to deliver the second-biggest Labor Day debut of all time; second, Barbie became the year’s biggest hit on Friday; and third, the summer box office finally passed the $4 billion mark for the first time in the post-pandemic era.
This signals a much-awaited return to normalcy for the theatrical marketplace, after two entire years of uncertainty followed by some relief thanks to a handful of theatrical hits last year. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Comscore’s figures suggest that the $4 billion milestone was surpassed on Friday, but final numbers will only become clearer by Monday. This marks a 16.3% gain over summer 2022’s $3.43 billion haul (which was dominated by Top Gun: Maverick), and a 7.8% deficit from summer 2019’s $4.34 billion gross (when The Lion King made over half a billion dollars).
While it was The Equalizer 3’s strong $13 million Friday haul that pushed the summer box office over the $4 billion mark, a large part of the overall success of the theatrical marketplace this summer season can easily be attributed to Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer. Dubbed the “Barbenheimer” event — a hugely-anticipated double-bill that has delivered more than $2 billion in global box office revenue — the simultaneous release of the two films has significantly elevated this year’s box office.
A Rundown of the Summer’s Biggest Hits
Barbie has grossed $601 million so far, while Oppenheimer has generated $304 million — marking an over $900 million combined contribution to that $4 billion figure. Other major hits this summer season were The Super Mario Bros. Movie ($574 million), Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse ($381 million), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 ($358 million), and The Little Mermaid ($298 million). While the second-tier hits of the summer all actually underperformed, their contribution to the overall performance cannot be overlooked. These films are Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny ($174 million), Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One ($168 million), Transformers: Rise of the Beasts ($157 million), Elemental ($151 million) and Fast X ($145 million).
All of this goes to show what studios stand to lose by not agreeing to pay fair wages to striking writers and actors. With the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes still underway, the fall movie season is shrouded in uncertainty. We’ve already seen high-profile delays such as Dune: Part Two — studios are choosing to postpone releases because guild guidelines do not allow actors to participate in promotions — which will surely eat into the commercial potential of the fall movie season. Let’s hope that better sense prevails, and studios realize that without artists, none of these numbers would be possible.