It looks as though Christopher Nolan and Universal want to take another shot at getting Oppenheimer across the billion dollar line, as it’s heading back to IMAX screens. The historical drama movie is one of the biggest surprise hits of the year, and is currently just over $50 million shy of crossing the significant box office threshold of one billion dollars.
Beginning on Friday November 3, Oppenheimer will be back in IMAX theaters for an encore of one week only. This will bring what I very much consider one of the best movies of the year to just six 70mm IMAX screens worldwide, which is director Christopher Nolan’s preferred format for the film. There are three in California, one in New York, one in London, and one in Melbourne.
While Oppenheimer initially benefitted from the phenomenon of being released in the same weekend as mega-hit Barbie, the drama movie proved it had the legs to make it one of the highest-grossing movies of the year. IMAX theaters provided a huge boost to its box office takings, contributing $183 million to the total haul.
While promoting Oppenheimer, Nolan emphasized the fact that it had been filmed using enormous IMAX cameras and that 70mm IMAX was the optimum way to watch the film. There are 1,700 IMAX theaters in the world, but only 30 which can show the film in Nolan’s preferred 70mm format, and this prompted some devoted movie fans to travel vast distances to see it this way.
Nolan has a standing in the movie industry which rivals titans such as Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese. Along with Avatar director James Cameron and movie star Tom Cruise, Nolan has been a vocal defender of the theatrical experience – especially during recent challenges such as the pandemic.
Nolan’s fanbase swelled hugely as a result of him directing one of the best Batman actors, Christian Bale, in The Dark Knight trilogy. But movie audiences have remained loyal to him as a director since he’s moved on from Gotham. His two original science-fiction movies were both huge successes – Inception (2010) made over $800 million, and Interstellar (2014) made over $700 million.
While it may be a highlight of the year, many people thought (me included) Oppenheimer would be lucky to make as much as Nolan’s previous World War II movie Dunkirk. But despite being dialogue-heavy and three hours long, Oppenheimer’s box office far surpassed the $530 million haul for the action spectacle of Dunkirk. Oppenheimer has even become the second-highest grossing R-rated film in history.
Oppenheimer is also now the fourth-highest grossing IMAX release of all time and will be welcomed back to IMAX theaters in a slow week before the release of The Marvels. Just physically moving the Oppenheimer 70mm IMAX print around is a challenge in itself, as it weighs 600 pounds.
When Oppenheimer is inevitably nominated for many Oscars, it won’t be surprising to see it get yet another theatrical release, but it’s clear that Universal want that billion dollars in the bag before 2023 is over.