Barbenheimer briefly benefits the cinema and shopping mall sectors

by Zain Jaffer

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably noticed the ads for Barbenheimer, the double feature marketing strategy for the films Barbie and Oppenheimer. At first glance, those two films do not have much in common. One is a comedic sea of pink tribute to Greta Gerwig’s ideas on feminism, the other is a serious three hour biopic about the creator of the atomic bomb. 

Double features have been around for many years now, but this is the first time that it has been done with this sheer force and scale. Globally it is being billeted as a double feature, and posters that are meme-like with both casts appear in many corners of the globe.

One undeniable thing about Barbenheimer is that the record box office numbers and excitement and hype generated by this strategy has brought life back to cinemas and the shopping malls these are often connected with. Cinemas and malls that have been sorely in the red for the past few years because of the pandemic, and the advent of popular streaming services such as Netflix, HBO, Hulu, and the like, as well as the availability of pirated versions on the Web.

Although the latest versions of Mission Impossible and Indiana Jones also hit the silver screens a few days prior to Barbenheimer, these two other films seem to lack the earlier drawing power that these two used to have.

According to the nonprofit Cinema Foundation in their March 2023 report, the average price of a US movie ticket was around $10.53. If adjusted for inflation, the cost in 2022 is actually less than in 2019 ($10.58) and 1971 ($11.92 adjusted with inflation). There are 107 movies set to be released in 2,000 or more theaters this year, up dramatically from 71 films in 2022 and down slightly from 112 in 2019.[1] 

The Foundation reports that the number of movie screens in the U.S. shrunk by 5.3% from 41,172 in 2019 to 39,007 in 2022. The North American silver screen count shrunk by 5% from 44,283 to 42,063 screens.[1]

Developments like these are most welcome for the cinema and shopping mall real estate sectors. Even without industry data, just looking at many major city downtown areas with shops and stores boarded up with for rent or lease signs shows how this sector has suffered during the past few years.

A shopping mall with a cinema complex brings people together and supports many retail entrepreneurs of many types. Without people coming in, the whole business model falls apart. Instead what we get are boarded up and empty real estate shopping malls, sometimes abandoned then invaded by the homeless and drug addicts.

Hence successful films like Barbie and Oppenheimer bring in more than their box office receipts and popcorn and drink revenues. Assuming a family of three to five goes to the mall to watch a film, they may grab lunch, dinner or even just a snack in one of the food and beverage stores in the mall. They may go window shopping and buy some items. These successful films are extremely valuable in supporting the retail sector for the simple reason that these bring back people to the shopping malls, especially those with cinemas.

Needless to say Mattel benefits from this with more Barbie doll sales. The stock prices of the companies involved won’t hurt either with these kinds of successes.

We absolutely need more of these types of films, not only for their contributions to pop culture, historical, financial and other sectors. These kinds of mega blockbuster films also draw us out of our digital addictions and for a few hours get us away from our gadgets, bring us back to the malls and cinemas, and suspend our disbelief along with others in front of a silver screen.

The positive impact of these types of crowd drawing events to our traditional real estate places of congregation cannot be overstated.

SOURCES see March 2023 State of the Cinema Industry Report