Set to hit theaters in the United States on Friday, July 21, “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” each boast a star-studded cast, renowned directors, and extensive marketing campaigns. This joint release has sparked a flurry of ‘Barbenheimer‘ memes on social media, fueled by the striking contrast in their appeal and subject matter. While “Barbie” is a live-action comedy that brings Mattel’s iconic dolls to life, chronicling the adventures of Barbie and Ken, “Oppenheimer” explores the story of scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer and his pivotal role in the development of the atomic bomb.

The hype surrounding each film is immense and only growing thanks to marketing efforts (search “Barbie Movie” on Google for an example), but what does the data say about “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” intenders? According to the latest CivicScience data among U.S. adults, “Oppenheimer” holds a 12-point edge over “Barbie” (37% to 25%) when it comes to who is at least ‘somewhat likely’ to go see either film in theaters. Age could certainly be a factor in driving pre-release watching intent – children and teens under 18 could spur a boom at the box office for “Barbie,” potentially closing the gap between the two films.

What distinguishes those who are ‘very likely’ to watch “Barbie” in theaters from those leaning towards “Oppenheimer”? Demographically, intenders between the two films are unsurprisingly likely to attract the under-35 crowd, but those aged 35 and above are nearly twice as likely to prefer “Oppenheimer” over “Barbie.” Moreover, it’s worth noting that Republicans are twice as likely to be ‘very likely’ to see “Oppenheimer” in theaters compared to “Barbie.” Those living in suburban areas are 5 points more likely to prefer “Oppenheimer” as well.

Some other ways to tell “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” Intenders apart:

  • Just another day at the theater: Those very likely to see “Barbie” tend to be more frequent moviegoers, with 36% going to the movies at least ‘once a month or more,’ compared to 27% among potential “Oppenheimer” viewers.
  • Time for a new ride? Prospective “Barbie” moviegoers are much more likely to plan to purchase or lease a new car in the next 90 days, compared to “Oppenheimer” intenders.
  • Game on: One-quarter of those most interested in seeing “Barbie” follow the NHL ‘very closely,’ compared to 18% of those who are most interested in seeing “Oppenheimer.”
  • Order up: Nearly 7-in-10 “Barbie” fans are at least ‘somewhat interested’ in value menu items from fast-food and quick service restaurants, compared with 55% on the “Oppenheimer” side of the aisle. 
  • Powered up: Nearly 3-in-5 aspiring “Oppenheimer” moviegoers currently rely on a Windows operating system, roughly double that of “Barbie” intenders.

The majority of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” intenders back labor unions amid writer and actor strikes.

While these two likely blockbusters will capture much of the attention of the entertainment industry this week, it’s impossible to ignore the striking Writers Guild of America and the Screen Actors Guild – American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG–AFTRA) – the latter of which resulted in the “Oppenheimer” cast walking out of the UK premiere event last week.

New CivicScience data show support for labor unions is robust among those most likely to view both “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” in theaters, with 62% and 59% respectively, reporting as labor union supporters. However, those who are ‘very likely’ to watch “Oppenheimer” are nine points more likely to oppose unions (24% compared to 15% among “Barbie” intenders).

As we approach the culmination of the ‘Barbenheimer’ frenzy, a final head-to-head analysis of the data shows that 29% express their intention to watch “Barbie” exclusively, while 55% lean towards seeing only “Oppenheimer” – and an additional 16% plan on embarking on what would be a nearly 5-hour movie marathon of both films. 

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