Mamma Mia! and The Dark Knight were the original Barbenheimer

Mamma Mia! and The Dark Knight were the original Barbenheimer

Margot Robbie's Barbie and Cillian Murphy Oppenheimer have a precedent from 15 years back

Warner Bros/Universal

The same-day release of Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer has sparked a frenzy on social media in recent weeks.

But as cotton candy plastic pop meets death, destroyer of worlds on Friday 21 July, it’s worth pointing out that, incredibly, this has happened before.

Fifteen years ago on 18 July 2008, dark versus light had another box office showdown, when Nolan’s The Dark Knight was released on the same day as Abba-inspired musical sensation Mamma Mia!

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Of course, social media was a very different beast back then.

We can only dream of what the meme machine would have churned out with Christian Bale’s foreboding Batman and Amanda Seyfreid’s bride-to-be Sophie. Or what about Heath Ledger’s terrifying Joker and Pierce Brosnan’s smooth-as-you-like Sam Carmichael?

The Dark Knight won the opening weekend by some distance, bringing in $158.4m in ticket sales compared to $27.7m for Mamma Mia! However, the Abba extravaganza clawed back some ground in the end, earning $611m in total, though still far less than The Dark Knight’s $1bn.

Of course, theatre fans will point to the resounding success of Mamma Mia! the musical, which is the second-most successful production of all time with $4bn in total revenue, only lagging behind The Phantom Of The Opera.

And beyond the numbers, news outlet Vulture even positioned the event as a good versus evil, light versus dark battle “for the soul of America” ahead of opening weekend. Sounds familiar, right?

“It’s tempting to look at this weekend, in fact, as a mandate on how Americans feel about the state and future of our great nation,” the publication wrote at the time.

“Is America optimistic? Do we essentially view ourselves as attractive, tan actresses frolicking on the beach to ABBA songs? Or is the soul of America chaotic and violent, like the deranged anti-hero whose electrifying presence animates The Dark Knight?”

Twitter users tried to give the 15-year-old film pairing the Barbenheimer treatment. One person wrote: “Just realised the dark knight/mamma mia release day could have been called “Abbatman”. Why wasn’t I on Twitter in 2008?”

It’s too early to say which of Barbie or Oppenheimer will come out on top on their opening weekend – though analysts have predicted a win for the former.

But with the films hitting cinemas on 21 July, we don’t have long until we find out.

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