There is much to be said about the success of “Oppenheimer” right now. For one, Universal Pictures comes out looking brilliant here, as Nolan left Warner Bros. following the release of “Tenet” in 2020 and that proved to be Universal’s gain. They now have a $100 million movie that will make at least nine times its production budget and will absolutely be a top contender come awards season. Make no mistake, they will write Nolan a blank check for whatever he wants to do next. Warner Bros. may want him back but it is probably too little, too late.
Beyond that, we can also take a moment to evaluate the state of superhero cinema. In particular, the era of presumed dominance when it comes to comic book movies appears to be behind us. “Guardians 3” is the top earner in the superhero realm this year and, aside from “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” it’s been a mixed bag. “Shazam! Fury of The Gods” and “The Flash” bombed spectacularly, with “Blue Beetle” currently struggling. “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania collapsed after its first weekend. Things are changing. Superheroes alone no longer guarantee success like they did even a couple of years ago.
Meanwhile, for the first time since 2001 (!) there are no sequels in the top three movies at the box office this year. It’s been that long since new franchises or non-franchise films reigned supreme in an uncontested way.
Looking ahead, I’m not saying it will happen but given its continued legs and assured Oscar run, “Oppenheimer” has an outside shot at hitting $1 billion worldwide before all’s said and done. If that happens, I would peg it as the most unlikely movie ever to top $1 billion. If it never makes another penny, it’s still a wild success beyond anyone’s most optimistic expectations.
“Oppenheimer” is in theaters now.