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‘Barbenheimer’ boom: Double feature brings historic crowds to Coolidge Corner Theatre

Barbie was one of two movies which drew record crowds to Coolidge Corner this weekend. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.
July 25, 2023

This weekend was a blockbuster movie event across the country, and Brookline was no exception.

The double feature of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie,” a satiric take on the iconic toy, and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer,” an epic historical drama about the making of the atomic bomb, brought moviegoers to Coolidge Corner in droves.

The Coolidge Corner Theatre pre-sold around 6,000 tickets for the two films for opening weekend, the most in its history, according to director of special programming Mark Anastasio.

For the first two weeks of showings, Barbie has sold 6,500 tickets and Oppenheimer 5,850 at the theater. Combined, the two movies have already brought in over $213,000 in gross box office sales.

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“In a good year, we’ll have multiple films gross higher than $100,000, which is considered excellent. But it doesn’t happen in the first week,” said Anastasio. “This is far and away the most excitement we’ve seen from audiences for two movies on the same weekend.”

The theater had a party-like atmosphere over the weekend, with both staff and moviegoers dressed for the occasion: pink for Barbie, of course, and dark suits for Oppenheimer. The house lights were turned pink and other decorations festooned the historic theater.

“It’s totally fun that folks have embraced this. Our excitement about that can’t be overstated,” said Anastasio. “This now signals to the rest of the world what we already knew: movie theaters aren’t going anywhere, and there’s always going to be a desire to experience this art form as part of an audience.”

The double feature was a boon to other businesses in the neighborhood as well.

Brookline Booksmith sold out its nearly 50 copies of “American Prometheus,” the book on which Oppenheimer is based, and has many more copies coming in this week, said co-owner Lisa Gozashti.

Parlour, a restaurant and cocktail bar near the theater, covered its windows in pink and hosted an afterparty following the first showing of Barbie. It sold Barbie-themed cocktails such as “Life in Plastic” and “Just Ken” all weekend.

The bar sold more than 300 Barbie cocktails over the weekend, a much-needed boost to business, said Parlour owner Meghan Murphy.

“It really breathed life into the summer. People needed a reason to have fun, to go out again and get a little silly and enjoy themselves. We loved every second of it,” she said.

The Barbie cocktails will be available through the rest of the week, Murphy said.