‘Barbie’ Struts To No. 2 In Deadline’s 2023 Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament

Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament is back. While studios during Covid wildly embraced the theatrical day-and-date model when cinemas were closed, they soon realized there’s nothing more profitable than a theatrical release and the downstreams that come with it. If anything, theatrical is the advertisement for a movie’s longevity in subsequent home entertainment windows. Entering the conversation in 2023 were the streamers, such as Apple, who have also realized the necessity of theatrical to eventize their movies. The financial data pulled together here for Deadline’s Most Valuable Blockbuster Tournament is culled by seasoned and trusted sources.


Warner Bros

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The road to riches for a live-action Barbie movie was long. The most recent ramp-up had come in 2009, when Universal and Greatest Showman producer Laurence Mark became attached. Then the project segued to Sony with Laurie MacDonald and Walter F. Parkes attached as producers, and at varying points Anne Hathaway and Amy Schumer were in the lead role. Schumer would vacate due to creative differences; ironically, the conceit of that version, then penned by Hilary Winston and Kim Caramele, was similar to what became Barbie‘s eventual plot: a fish-out-of-water story whereby Barbie, a denizen of Barbieland, is kicked out, basically because she’s not perfect enough, a bit eccentric and doesn’t quite fit the mold. She goes on an adventure in the real world, and by the time she returns to save Barbieland, she has gained the realization that perfection comes on the inside, not the outside, and that the key to happiness is the belief in oneself, free of the obligation to adhere to some unattainable standard of perfection.

Mattel CEO Ynon Kreiz always had a mind-set to take the beloved toy, which had clocked some $3 billion plus in sales, to another franchise level, a plan for the toymaker that’s part of a multi-year strategy for all its brands. Sony’s option on Barbie expired in October 2018, with Warners jumping on it (the project was greenlit under the Burbank, CA lot’s previous administration of Toby Emmerich and Courtenay Valenti). Margot Robbie jumped at making the movie: She wanted to make a female-driven superhero-like movie for the masses. An extra lap was made to nail down Ryan Gosling as Ken, which raised costs but was worth every nickel in the end. Warner Bros Discovery CEO David Zaslav declared internally at the studio that 2023 was the “summer of Barbie,” with the movie promoted across all tentacles of the entertainment conglom including by HGTV and Food Network. Even before that, Warner Bros had been lassoing millennials on social media with Barbie memes that allowed fans to indulge their adoration of their childhood doll. Warners lowballed on box office projections, saying the pic would do $75 million-$90 million. The movie was widely screened to the press, the concern being the popcorn treat was too woke in the hands of Little Women filmmaker Greta Gerwig. But moviegoers fell head over heels for Barbie, giving it an A CinemaScore and the biggest opening of 2023 with $162M domestic, $356M worldwide. The movie, together with Oppenheimer, was the last big film before the actors strike to get a fire-breathing global promotion from its cast, providing the movie with a long runway into the summer where it was No. 1 for four weeks in a row.



Not counted here in revenues are consumer sales, toy goods weren’t contingent on Warner Bros’ greenlight (a very different situation from PAW Patrol 2 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem). Alas, per inside sources, the total impact from Mattel’s direct movie participation, movie-related toy sales and consumer products yielded more than $150M in sales last year. A comp toward $175M global P&A were 165 promo partnerships for Barbie from Crocs to Cold Stone ice cream. However, Barbie also ran a competitive awards and Oscar campaign, resulting in eight Academy Awards noms including Best Picture, with a win for the Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell original song “What Was I Made For?” That $200M for Television and Streaming includes the money Warner Bros paid itself to put the movie on streaming service Max. The $175M in participations includes $60M for Robbie, $40M for Gosling, as well as monies to Mattel, Gerwig, producer David Heyman and Robbie’s LuckyChap. Let’s also not forget about the 1M-plus stateside selling Barbie soundtrack, which featured a big hit from Dua Lipa in “Dance the Night”). The album won the Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media, and “What Was I Made For?” took Song of the Year and Best Song Written for Visual Media. Barbie ascended to become the highest-grossing movie in Warner Bros history with $1.44 billion, overtaking longtime champ Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 ($1.35B). With almost a half-billion in profit here, Barbie was more than dazzling for the Zaslav-run studio.

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