"Barbie" has surpassed the coveted $1 billion mark at the global box office — just 17 days after its release.
The Greta Gerwig-directed blockbuster, backed by both Mattel (MAT) and Warner Bros. (WBD), joins Universal's "Super Mario Bros. Movie" (CMCSA) as the only two films to hit the $1 billion milestone so far this year. "Super Mario Bros. Movie" has surpassed $1.3 billion since its April debut.
Another milestone? Gerwig is the first woman to solely direct a $1 billion-dollar movie.
Industry watchers have championed "Barbie's" record-breaking wins, along with the success of Universal's "Oppenheimer," which opened the same weekend as "Barbie."
"It feels like the pinnacle of the year so far — especially after a summer where we've seen a lot of franchise sequels miss expectations by varying degrees," Boxoffice Pro chief analyst Shawn Robbins previously told Yahoo Finance, stressing the pop culture "zeitgeist" both films have managed to create — particularly with "Barbie," which has relied on a heavy marketing push to drum up anticipation.
Robbins said many of the laggards this year, such as "Indiana Jones," had been out of the public consciousness for years while there has also been oversaturation in the market when it comes to franchises.
"We're in a time now where people are a little bit more selective with what they're choosing to spend their money on," he said.
Wall Street analysts have also turned bullish amid the "Barbenheimer" hype.
On Monday, Morgan Stanley analyst Ben Swinburne reiterated his Overweight rating on Cinemark's (CNK) stock and upped his price target to $24 a share, an increase from the prior $22.
"Conviction in studios and consumers embracing theatrical has been further reinforced by the Barbenheimer summer," the analyst wrote in a new note, despite the overhang of the double strike in Hollywood.
Strike uncertainties loom for theater chains
Last month, actors joined writers on the picket line for the first time since 1960.
SAG-AFTRA — the union that represents approximately 160,000 actors, announcers, recording artists, and other media professionals around the world — announced the strike after failing to negotiate a deal with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), which bargains on behalf of studios including Warner Bros., Disney (DIS), Netflix (NFLX), Amazon (AMZN), Apple (AAPL), and NBCUniversal (CMCSA).
The Writers Guild of America (WGA), which represents about 11,500 television and movie writers, called for a strike in early May. WGA leaders met with studio representatives on Friday to discuss restarting negotiations; however, no new negotiations have been set at this point as the standstill drags on.
In a report released last month, Moody's predicted "a relatively long strike," which would hit movie theater companies such as AMC and Cineworld (CINE.L) first, followed by diversified media companies with both streaming and linear television businesses.
"If there is a protracted strike, cinema operators are most at risk with their nearly complete dependency on new product," Moody's said. "Theatrical exhibitors are already strained from damage caused by the COVID pandemic such as lighter release schedules that followed and shortened distribution windowing. They also have mostly weaker balance sheets and credit ratings."
Still, Morgan Stanley's Swinburne said the uncertainty created by the strikes won't last forever.
"Labor strikes create uncertainty, but ultimately it is temporary," he wrote. "While visibility remains limited here, in our view, unless production remains shut down beyond late-fall, we see limited impact on the '24 slate. Strikes-aside, studios continue to build back production and we expect increased film supply from both traditional and streaming studios over the next few years."
Not everyone agrees, however.
Richard Greenfield, media and technology analyst at LightShed Partners, told Yahoo Finance he foresees the strikes lasting until at least November, adding the prolonged work stoppage will be "very disruptive" to the business of Hollywood in the fourth quarter.
"This is far more devastating to this industry than I think both sides realize," the analyst warned.
Late last month, Sony reshuffled its 2023-2024 film schedule, citing the strikes.
"Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse" — the sequel to the widely successful "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" — was quietly removed from the 2024 release calendar. It was expected to hit theaters on March 29, 2024.
Recent reports have said studios like Warner Bros. and Disney are also weighing changes to their respective slates as a direct result of the strikes.
Variety reported Warner Bros. is "strongly considering" pushing the highly anticipated "Dune" sequel to next year from its current Nov. 3 debut. Disney is reportedly weighing the same thing for films like "Wish" and "Poor Things," according to Bloomberg.