Will Oppenheimer Break Christopher Nolan's Box Office Record? – MovieWeb

Oppenheimer has an uphill battle if it aims to break $1 billion worldwide.
Director Christopher Nolan is no stranger to box office blockbusters. With movies such as The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises under his belt, he knows how to bring in $1 billion worldwide. His latest film, Oppenheimer, is a biopic about the famed creator of the atomic bomb, J. Robert Oppenheimer, starring Cillian Murphy alongside many other A-list actors. The film has already managed to garner a lot of buzz prior to its release, which leads audiences to wonder if this newest venture will break Nolan’s box office record set by his previous movies.
Although Oppenheimer was specifically filmed for IMAX screens, which require a premium ticket, the film has heavy competition during its opening weekend and is the first R-rated film for Nolan in more than 20 years, which could hinder its draw at the box office. Furthermore, if early screenings of the film describing it as a “horror film” are any indication, it’s highly unlikely Oppenheimer will break Nolan's box office record. While it’s all but certain the film will be both critically and commercially acclaimed, it doesn’t appear to be a front-runner for grossing $1 billion around the world.
Unlike most films, Oppenheimer was specifically made for the grandeur of the IMAX screen, and as such, premium IMAX tickets could easily boost box office numbers, given how pricey they are compared to a regular theater experience. Nolan has been hyping the film’s grandiosity and has expressed on numerous occasions that the film is meant to be seen on the biggest possible screen, given the nature of Oppenheimer’s approach to its storytelling.
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If moviegoers literally buy into the hype and see the film in IMAX, then the numbers at the box office could see a much-needed boost throughout the film’s theatrical showings, which could aid in possible box office records for Nolan. However, only 30 theaters across the country will be showing Oppenheimer on the grandest scale possible, seeing as IMAX locations are fairly limited throughout the United States. Nonetheless, focusing on the vastness of the film and urging audiences to see it in theaters for the ultimate viewing experience could benefit Nolan at the box office.
Oppenheimer will hit theaters the same weekend as Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, which means the film has stiff competition if it wants to be number one at the box office, let alone break any records for a Nolan film. Barbie is one of the most anticipated movies of the year, and given its broader appeal to audiences, it could easily cast a shadow over Oppenheimer.
While such a shadow doesn’t necessarily mean the movie wouldn’t be able to break a box office record for Nolan, it would indicate a steep uphill battle. If the film is unable to come out on top during its initial weekend release, then it’s implausible to assume it would be able to gross $1 billion at the box office worldwide.
However, it is worth noting that Oppenheimer might hold well in the following weeks. Due to the limited number of IMAX screens, audiences may wait to see the film in IMAX in either the film's second or even third week, making sure they are seeing it in the desired format. This means Oppenheimer might not have as big of an opening weekend but could hold strong the following weekends. Previous Nolan films like The Dark Knight, Inception, and Dunkirk all took advantage of the third week of July and played well into August, meaning the same could be true for Oppenheimer.
Most of Nolan’s films have managed to score a PG-13 rating, which meant they were accessible to a wider viewing audience, ergo, the films had the ability to make more money given their broader appeal. However, like his 2002 film, Insomnia, Oppenheimer has an R rating, which will ultimately restrict who will be able to see the movie in theaters, meaning box office numbers could take a hit.
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While it’s possible for an R-rated movie to gross $1 billion worldwide, Todd Phillips’s 2019 dark drama Joker is the only R-rated film to ever achieve such a milestone. However, given the early hype surrounding Oppenheimer and the buzz it seems to continue to garner leading up to its release, the movie could easily become the second R-rated film to gross $1 billion around the world.
Early viewers of Oppenheimer have described the film as a horror movie, given the nature of the events surrounding the film. As such, it’s likely that some viewers will forgo the movie altogether or wait until it’s available to stream at home. Nolan himself has described the movie as something akin to a horror movie and agrees that many viewers will be “devastated” after watching the film. Unfortunately, such characterizations of the film could turn away certain moviegoers who might find the subject matter too graphic in nature to see on the big screen.
While it’s all but certain Oppenheimer will be a box office success, its attempt to break box office records for Nolan is nothing short of an uphill battle. Although it’s completely within the realm of possibility, it’s not plausible to think the film could accomplish such a feat. What will be more interesting is to see how Oppenheimer fares against other films released this summer, particularly as films like Fast X, Elemental, and The Flash underperformed at the box office.
Oppenheimer will be released exclusively in theaters on July 21.

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