Nolan remains optimistic about future of cinema after Oppenheimer

Christopher Nolan sees the tremendous box office success of Oppenheimer as a sign that the state of moviegoing is on the upswing.

Nolan Oppenheimer

Nobody would have thought that a three-hour movie about the father of the atomic bomb would be one of the highest-grossing movies of the year, giving pink dolls, plumber brothers and the Guardians’ farewell a literal run for their money. But that’s just what happened with Oppenheimer, which director Christopher Nolan sees as a positive omen for the future of cinema.

As Christopher Nolan told Empire, Oppenheimer defied the odds at the box office this year. “I’ve just made a three-hour film about Robert Oppenheimer which is R-rated and half in black-and-white – and it made a billion dollars. Of course I think films are doing great…The crazy thing is that it’s literally the most successful film I’ve ever made. I’ve been doing this for 20 years and in the United Kingdom it’s my highest-grossing film. So I feel great about the state of the movie business, based on my own experience. But also based on seeing other movies break out, seeing audiences come back.”

Other movies here of course include Barbie, which, paired with the same release date as Oppenheimer, sparked a pop culture phenomenon that captured the attention, memes and bucks of audiences everywhere. While it was expected that Barbie would come out on top – which it did, taking in $1.4 billion worldwide – Nolan and Oppenheimer benefited quite nicely from double features.

But it wasn’t just Barbenheimer that gave Oppenheimer a hand. As Nolan put it, it was a desire to see fresh material on the big screen. “The audience’s desire to be surprised, to see something new, to see something they did not know they wanted, that’s always been the most powerful force in theatrical film…So it was wonderful to see that this year.” Oppenheimer would end up becoming the highest-grossing biopic ever, pulling in $954 million worldwide against previous record holder Bohemian Rhapsody’s $879 million. And now Oppenheimer is a best-selling home video release thanks to the push for physical media.

As per The Numbers, 2023 saw $8.5 billion at the domestic box office, a monumental improvement over last year’s $7.4 billion and easily the best year since the Covid-19 pandemic. For reference, 2019 saw $11.2 billion domestically off of Marvel, Disney properties and even the R-rated Joker.

What do you think accounts of Oppenheimer’s popularity with audiences? How much does Christopher Nolan himself factor? Give us your thoughts in the comments section below.

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