When “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” burst into theaters last July, eventually grossing more than $2 billion combined, pundits were beside themselves with joy. 

“Finally!” the beleaguered nerds exclaimed. “Proof positive that audiences are suffering from franchise fatigue and craving smart, original and challenging films.” 

Hollywood was saved.

Eh, not really.

#Barbenheimer, the phenomenon of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer,” is far in the rearview as Hollywood reverts back to making sequels. ©Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Most of those ticket-buyers just wanted to dress up like pink dolls on Instagram for a day and make themed cocktails with edible glitter. 

I attended one of those parties.

In black.

Of the ‘heimer half, legions of fans of director Christopher Nolan are as steadfastly devoted as 1950s Catholics, and many other susceptible lemmings simply got whipped up in the hashtag frenzy. 

Participation was mandatory.

#Barbenheimer unfortunately was a cinematic Brigadoon — fleeting, and fun while it lasted — that has since disappeared into the mists of Burbank.

Peruse Fandango right now and you’ll see that Hollywood is squarely back to business as usual, and that business is sequels and retreads. 

The No. 1 movie in the world is “Inside Out 2,” Pixar’s followup to the family flick about cute talking emotions.

The biggest movie of the year so far is “Inside Out 2” — a Pixar sequel. ©Walt Disney Co./Courtesy Everett Collection

The series’ second entry is pretty much the same as the first, albeit with a puberty angle, and has already grossed $1.2 billion.

The domestic top five of 2024 is rounded out by “Dune: Part Two,” “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” “Kung Fu Panda 4” and “Bad Boys: Ride or Die.”

“A Quiet Place: Day One” is currently on the rise, too.

“One,” “Two,” “4,” “x.”

“A Quiet Place: Day One” is currently on the rise, too. AP

Audiences are giving the industry no obvious indication that it shouldn’t be churning out familiar and predictable titles like a factory in Zhengzhou.

True, most of them aren’t making the big bucks that they did as recently as 2019 when nine of the top 10 exceeded $1 billion worldwide.

But they are nonetheless outperforming fresher properties, such as the excellent “Challengers” with Zendaya, by wide margins.

Just three of this year’s top grossers are so-called original films. And two of those — “IF,” with Ryan Reynolds, and “The Fall Guy,” starring Ryan Gosling and Emily Blunt — were flops. 

The domestic top five of 2024 is rounded out by “Dune: Part Two,” “Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire,” “Kung Fu Panda 4” and “Bad Boys: Ride or Die.” AP

Deservedly so.

Duds, both.

I rip Hollywood all the time for its habit of shoveling slop in the troth and its paralyzing fear of taking chances, but lately it’s hard to blame them. 

After the back-to-back sucker punches of COVID shutdowns, two labor strikes and the streaming downturn, it’s much easier to bring back the McRib.

I subscribe to the old gambler’s adage that “scared money never wins,” but the problem is that in the movie business it occasionally does.

“Godzilla x Kong” is one of seven sequels or retreads in the domestic box office top 10 this year. AP

And that “occasionally” is enough to keep struggling studios away from taking a risk on the likes of “Avatar,” “1917,” “Get Out” and “Coco” for a while. 

The concern is that their hole-spackling laziness becomes a full-blown addiction.

“Coco,” by the way, was Pixar’s last original box office smash.

Seven long years ago.

Showing how desperate Hollywood is for sequels, Disney CEO Bob Iger announced “Toy Story 5” on a quarterly earnings call.

Some optimistic cinephiles are praying the Barbenheimer phenomenon is repeated on Nov. 22 when “Gladiator 2” and “Wicked” are released on the same weekend. 

Some are hoping that “Gladiator 2” and “Wicked” will repeat #Barbeheimer’s success at the box office. ©Universal/Courtesy Everett Collection

There’s an obvious parallel: one is a major film appealing to men and the other pink property is aimed at women.

Because of the casts and nostalgia, there is a bit of fanbase overlap.

Cash wise, it’s conceivable that the Roman redux and “Wizard of Oz” riff Broadway musical will match the other duo’s success.

Creatively, however, Wickiator is the polar opposite of cinemas being lorded over by a feminist doll film and a biopic about the father of the atomic bomb, both of which became Best Picture Oscar nominees (“Oppenheimer” won).

A straightforward movie-musical and a star-studded action sequel directed by Ridley Scott? Hardly explosive.



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