Barbie becomes Ireland’s most successful box office film, ending Avatar’s 14-year record

Greta Gerwig’s smash hit has amassed €8.85m, making it Ireland’s highest-grossing movie, as it continues to break records worldwide

It has been reported that Greta Gerwig’s Barbie, a smash since its release just over a month ago, has become the highest-grossing film ever at the Irish box office. Amassing, at time of writing, €8,854,036, it passes out the €8,702,770 accumulated by James Cameron’s Avatar on its initial release in 2009. The news comes a few days after the Light House cinema in Dublin confirmed Barbie had taken more than any other title at that venue.

The film is breaking records all over the world. Last week, Barbie passed out Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight to become Warner Bros’s highest grosser ever in the United States. That tussle is particularly appropriate as Barbie owes a good deal of its success to a symbiotic (largely friendly) rivalry with Nolan’s Oppenheimer. When, last year, it was announced that both films would open on July 21st, many thought one or the other would move. But the subsequent online hubbub around “Barbenheimer” – a portmanteau word celebrating the combined release – proved mutually beneficial. The notion was that Gerwig’s shocking pink, feminist variation on the Mattel doll and Nolan’s vast examination of the father of the atomic bomb would attract different demographics. But it seems there has been much crossover in the audiences. The experienced exhibitor Graham Spurling, director of the Movies @ Dundrum cinema, has no doubt that the twin release helped Barbie achieve its record haul.

“It’s been absolutely spectacular,” Mr Spurling told The Irish Times. “Between it and Oppenheimer, in the 17 days after 21st June, every cinema was, I imagine, the busiest it had ever been. Because, for once, we had two films making money. So we hit 100 per cent of our potential audience. That rarely happens. We often have one film doing well, but they are limited in the genre they appeal to. This hit all four quarters of our audience.”

Oppenheimer, a long film much taken up with intense conversation, has also performed considerably better than expected. The film has taken $718 million (€661 million) worldwide. It stands at number four in the chart for 2023, ahead of more traditionally commercial titles such as Fast X, The Little Mermaid and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One. Barbie, with $1.28 billion (€1.18 billion) worldwide, is at number two, but stands a good chance of passing out The Super Mario Bros Movie to become the highest grosser worldwide and of holding that title to the end of the year.


A perusal of those figures confirms that Barbie is, in per capita terms, doing notably better in Ireland than in most other territories. It is “only” the 21st highest-grossing film ever worldwide and, though it will certainly rise higher, it has little chance of topping Avatar’s colossal €2.9 billion (€2.67 billion) to take the all-time global title.

Spurling has some thoughts on that apparent anomaly.

“The US has an inherent problem with encouraging people back to cinema after Covid,” he says. “They have no unified package to entice people back like we had here. We opened here after Covid with massive publicity. It was one voice across the board, UK and Ireland. And we came out of it much quicker than they did. And they still don’t have that.”

It, of course, also helped that Barbie received excellent word of mouth from audiences and largely positive reviews from critics. When it was confirmed that Gerwig, the director of Oscar nominees Lady Bird and Little Women, was to make a film based on the doll, many were sceptical, but cunning pre-release publicity sold it as a post-feminist lark and the film delivered on that promise. The film is still playing well in cinemas to large parties.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist