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‘Barbenheimer’ gets off to hot start with $32.8 million in combined Thursday sales

“Barbenheimer” is off to a red-hot start at the domestic box office.

One-half of the viral internet meme, “Barbie,” snared $22.3 million in Thursday night preview tickets, the most of any film released so far in 2023 — topping the $17.5 million first-night haul of Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3″ and the $17.4 million bow of Sony’s “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse.”

The R-rated, three-hour “Oppenheimer,” meanwhile, tallied $10.5 million from Thursday showings. That’s in line with big releases such as 2017′s “Wonder Woman” and this year’s live action “The Little Mermaid.”

Heading into the weekend, Warner Bros.′ “Barbie” is expected to capture upwards of $140 million, if not more, over its first three days in theaters. Meanwhile, Universal’s “Oppenheimer” appears destined to snare at least $50 million, with some box office analysts expecting it could top $60 million.

The two films could together generate $200 million over their opening frame. With additional ticket sales from “Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One,” “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” and “Sound of Freedom,” it could be the highest-grossing weekend of the year so far.

This excitement is much needed for the domestic box office after a string of recently released big-budget movies, such as “The Flash” and “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny,” fell short of expectations.

Major movie chains have indicated that ticket sales are strong for both films this weekend and additional shows have been added to accommodate demand.

Some 40,000 AMC Theatre loyalty program members have purchased tickets to see Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same day and the National Association of Theatre owners project that more than 200,000 moviegoers will attend same-day viewings of the two films.

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal and CNBC.

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