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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

‘Barbenheimer’ brings enthusiastic crowds to Spokane theaters as venues stagger showtimes for ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’

By Paige Van Buren and Roberta Simonson The Spokesman-Review

The pop culture phenomenon “Barbenheimer” has been blowing up the box office and pulling in waves of enthusiasm across the globe. In Spokane, that story is playing out on a similar scale, with pink-clad ticketholders hopping from one blockbuster to the next in the same day.

“Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” – one film about a life-sized doll facing an existential crisis, the other chronicling the life of the father of the atomic bomb – opened Friday, leaving moviegoers with what could have been a tough ticket choice.

But the AMC River Park Square theater has added earlier showtimes of the dueling blockbusters so film enthusiasts can see both in one mashup visit.

Ky Cyr, a manager at the theater, said they normally sell 80 tickets on Mondays. On Sunday, the theater had sold around 275 tickets.

Cyr said they were anticipating high popularity, but the numbers have surpassed expectations.

“Oppenheimer” had the highest-grossing opening weekend for a biopic, with an $82.5 million debut.

But Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” had the highest-grossing weekend for a nonsequel, nonfranchise, nonsuperhero movie and the highest-earning weekend for a female director, making around $162 million in the United States and Canada.

The fashion doll Barbie, which inspired the film, was manufactured and launched by American toy company Mattel in 1959.

The popularity of the eponymous movie has boosted sales of Mattel merchandise, with many of the dolls inspired by the movie already sold out. There is even a special Ken clothing collection because of the film.

Barbie audiences were ready for the fun.

Many moviegoers, if not most, got dolled up Friday and Saturday nights in pink skirts, shoes, cowboy hats, shirts, boots, sunglasses and matching accessories. A bright pink photo booth at the AMC theater was in high demand after the movie. Visible throughout the mall were bedazzled “Barbie” attendees waving to each other and saying, “Hey Barbie!” – an apparent nod to the movie’s many characters referring to each other as “Barbie,” because they all represent different iterations of the iconic doll.

On Monday afternoon at the Regal Theater in Northtown Mall, Mia Lemery was wearing a pink cowgirl outfit with a white hat and boots.

“I saw her outfit in the preview. I found the best match that I could,” Lemery said of actress Margot Robbie’s country ensemble featured throughout the film.

Lemery had seen predictions about “Barbie” on TikTok, and she was excited to see if those conjectures would turn out to be true. Seeing “Barbie” content on TikTok was a common thread with moviegoers.

Ellie Sheffield, who said she had been planning to go to “Barbie” ever since she heard about it on TikTok, was wearing a pink jersey and studded sunglasses.

As moviegoers in Airway Heights headed for the exits at B&B Theatres, it was rather obvious which of the two movies they had seen.

A large number of “Barbie” viewers leaving the theater were women and young girls, some of whom were dressed in their most vibrant pink outfits to channel their inner Barbie.

Christopher Brown was doing a true “Barbenheimer” doubleheader on Monday at the AMC. He and his friends had gotten the idea for the six-hour film marathon from TikTok. They saw “Barbie” and then “Oppenheimer,” thanks to AMC showtimes.

Brown brought his “Kenergy,” as Barbie’s male counterpart boasts about in the movie, with tan shorts, a pink T-shirt and a denim button–up. He didn’t bring a costume for “Oppenheimer” because the group wouldn’t have time for a wardrobe change.

Indeed, “Oppenheimer” attendees weren’t as easy to spot as Barbie fans.

Marine veteran Timothy Whitehall has been looking forward to seeing “Oppenheimer.”

“I heard about it a year ago,” he said. “It’s really up-and-coming.”

Whitehall was pleased with the film. He praised Cillian Murphy’s portrayal of the titular character, J. Robert Oppenheimer.

“It’s really kind of spooky,” Whitehall said. “He looks almost exactly like him.”

Cyr, the manager of the downtown AMC, said they didn’t see any “Oppenheimer” costumes. But they said plenty of attendees were wearing “Barbenheimer” shirts, a Frankenstein-looking hybrid of both movies.

Luke Pickett contributed to this article.

Paige Van Buren and Roberta Simonson's reporting is part of the Teen Journalism Institute, funded by Bank of America with support from the Innovia Foundation.