Oppenheimer director Christopher Nolan has reacted to the movie’s many box office records. Oppenheimer is a biographical thriller detailing the life of historical figure J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, largely focusing on his time developing the bomb at Los Alamos and the security hearings that followed the end of World War II. The movie has had a phenomenal box office run, most recently passing the $950 million milestone in addition to breaking a variety of records including becoming the highest-grossing biopic of all time.
Christopher Nolan recently sat down with Collider and spoke about the Oppenheimer box office. He humbly reflected that “for a film about J. Robert Oppenheimer, it was extraordinary.” He attributes the movie’s success to “IMAX presentation in particular, using film and using film prints that went out there into the world,” and he celebrated the new generation of filmgoers who have embraced the theatrical experience. Read Nolan’s full quote below:
The staggering Oppenheimer box office records extend far and wide. In addition to being the highest-grossing biopic of all time, it is also the highest-grossing movie about World War II. It has also landed impressively high on other charts, including becoming the second highest-grossing R-rated movie (behind Joker), the third highest-grossing movie of 2023 so far (behind Barbie and The Super Mario Bros. Movie), the third highest-grossing IMAX release (behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar), and the third highest-grossing Christopher Nolan movie (behind The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises).
Nolan is correct that IMAX screens significantly helped the movie achieve these records. Premium format tickets cost more than showtimes on regular screens, and the movie’s IMAX success buoyed a huge proportion of its box office gross. This was spurred on by the fact that Nolan has curated a reputation as a filmmaker whose work deserves to be seen on the big screen in the best format possible.
However, Oppenheimer’s success was also boosted by opening opposite Barbie on July 21. The viral Barbenheimer phenomenon, which saw people participating in double features of the diametrically opposed movies, helped boost the prospects of both titles. While the more commercially viable Barbie (a PG-13 release based on an iconic toy) remains the highest-grossing movie of the year, both movies propped one another up to greater success than could previously have been imagined.