The BarbieOppenheimer phenomenon, widely known as “Barbenheimer,” took the pop culture world by storm in 2023. The two films were box office hits and Oscar contenders. However, Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos believes that they would have been just as successful on the streaming service.

In an interview with The New York Times, Sarandos made his bold claim. In his defense, he claimed that the size of the screen does not matter to the viewer.

“There's no reason to believe that the movie itself is better in any size of screen for all people,” he said. “My son's an editor, he watched Lawrence of Arabia on his phone.”

Of course, Barbie was the highest-grossing film of 2023. Greta Gerwig's film made over $1.4 billion worldwide at the box office. Oppenheimer was also a huge hit, grossing over $974 million worldwide.

Those results simply wouldn't happen on Netflix. The streaming service gives theatrical releases to some of their films, such as the recent Hit Man film, but rarely, if ever, do they reach those heights.

Given the state of the 2024 box office, the “Barbenheimer” phenomenon was much-needed. Films like Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga and The Fall Guy have not fared well at the box office despite ties to an existing franchise or star power.

Barbie + Oppenheimer = ?

Barbie and Oppenheimer posters with Greta Gerwig in between.

The “Barbenheimer” phenomenon came to be due to the release dates of Barbie and Oppenheimer. They were both released on July 21, 2023 and were the double feature of the summer.

Having two blockbuster films open on the same weekend could have spelled trouble — after all, they hypothetically would be eating out of each other's profits. But the two competing films made it work and found a way to carry the 2023 box office.

Barbie was about the title character's journey of self-discovery. After she begins questioning her mortality, she goes on a journey to the real world to discover who she is. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling led the cast. Greta Gerwig directed the film and co-wrote the script with Noah Baumbach.

At the Oscars, Barbie was nominated for eight awards. It nearly went home empty-handed, only winning Best Original Song for “What Was I Made For?” by Billie Eilish.

Oppenheimer followed the title physicist's journey and involvement in the Manhattan Project. Cillian Murphy led the cast as J. Robert Oppenheimer. Emily Blunt, Matt Damon, Robert Downey Jr., and Florence Pugh also starred in the film. Christopher Nolan assembled an A-list ensemble that also featured Josh Hartnett, Rami Malek, Benny Safdie, Kenneth Branagh, and more.

Unlike Barbie, Oppenheimer was a huge winner at the Oscars. It led all films with 13 nominations at the 2024 ceremony. The film ultimately won seven awards including Best Picture.

“Barbenheimer's” lasting impact

While Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos believes that Barbie and Oppenheimer would have been just as big of hits on his streaming service, history would argue against that. The “Barbenheimer” phenomenon was a once-in-a-generation event. Sure, there will surely be other double features,  but it remains to be seen if they will field the same box office and Oscars results.