Jul 24, 2023, 1:16pm EDT

The countries where ‘Barbenheimer’ hasn’t caught on

People carry pink drinks during Wunder Garten's Barbie Ball in Washington.
REUTERS/Julia Nikhinson

Sign up for Semafor Flagship: The daily global news briefing you can trust. Read it now.

Title icon

The News

The cultural phenomenon of “Barbenheimer” manifested at the box office over the weekend, breaking records across much of the world.

In North America, the dueling releases of Barbie and Oppenheimer led to the highest-grossing weekend at the movies since the pandemic began. Both films also filled theaters in international markets including Australia, Brazil, Mexico, and the U.K., where fans donned pink for Barbie or midcentury suits for Oppenheimer (or a mix of both).

But not every country was feeling the Barbenheimer buzz. In some massive movie markets, the films either underperformed at the box office or have yet to release.

Title icon

The View From China

Barbie only grossed about $8 million in its opening weekend in China, landing in fifth place behind several Chinese-made films, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Oppenheimer, meanwhile, has yet to set a release date in China.


Barbie “isn’t the type of foreign film that has typically done well in China,” The Wall Street Journal reported. Blockbuster action movies from Marvel and the “Fast & Furious” series have usually been the ones that managed to attract Chinese moviegoers.

Chinese censors have approved fewer foreign movies in recent years, and other big franchise bids have underperformed there.

Title icon

The View From South Korea

The stars of Barbie visited South Korea earlier this summer as part of a hot pink publicity tour that also had stops in Australia, Canada, Mexico City, and the U.K.

But “their charm failed to translate into strong box office performance in the country and the film opened anonymously in fourth place over the weekend,” per Variety.

Barbie brought in just $1.91 million over its first five days in South Korea. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One was the box office champion over the weekend, earning $5.7 million.


Oppenheimer doesn’t release there until Aug. 15.

Title icon

The View From Vietnam

Vietnam remained untouched by Barbenheimer.

Barbie was banned there because of a brief scene in the film that shows a cartoon scribble of a world map; Vietnam government officials said the map includes a reference to the ”nine-dash line.” That’s a section of the South China Sea that China claims as part of its territory, but that Vietnam and most of the international community reject.

And Oppenheimer isn’t set to come out until Aug. 4.

Title icon

The View From Japan

Oppenheimer has yet to receive a release date in Japan. That’s led some to speculate how the movie will be received in the country, given that it focuses on the man responsible for the creation of the bombs that the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


But as Japan Today notes, the country doesn’t have a history of censoring or banning films based on political or militaristic reasons. And Japanese moviegoers have shown they are open to films about World War II, from both domestic and foreign filmmakers.

Barbie doesn’t come out in Japan until Aug. 11.

Title icon

The View From Saudi Arabia

Oppenheimer took the No. 1 box office spot in Saudi Arabia and India, bucking the trend seen in many other movie markets, where Barbie came out on top.

Barbie isn’t set to release in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states until the end of August. But Oppenheimer still performed well on its own in Saudi Arabia, breaking the record for the most number of advanced tickets sold this year, according to Gulf News.