Just How Big is the Barbie Movie Budget, Realistically?

Just How Big is the Barbie Movie Budget, Realistically?
Image credit: Legion-Media

The figures known don't reflect marketing expenses.

This summer, we're seeing a surge of big-budget blockbusters hitting the big screen. The Flash, Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny, and Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part 1 each cost their studios $200-300 million to produce.

Two other highly anticipated premieres, Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig's Barbie, are both estimated to have had production budgets of around $100 million.

While the biopic about the father of the atomic bomb seemingly fits within these figures despite extensive use of VFX, Barbie boasts an array of Hollywood's top-tier actors. Thus, some people have expressed doubt about whether the movie could have been made on a budget of just $100 million.

This scepticism is understandable. Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, who portray the titular character and her boyfriend Ken, are legit Hollywood stars. However, Barbie's cast also includes Kate McKinnon, Will Ferrell, Dua Lipa, Simu Liu, John Cena, and Helen Mirren as the narrator. All these big names come with hefty price tags. Plus, all the buzz generated around the movie in the run-up to the premier suggests Warner Bros must also have spent lavishly to market it.

Since we're currently in the middle of Barbie's promotional press tour, it's too early to tally up the marketing expenses. Typically, they equate to approximately half of the production budget, which would be $50 million in Barbie's case. However, summer is a challenging season for movies, so studios often spend up to a hundred per cent of production budgets on marketing to attract large audiences and recoup their investments. That includes extensive TV and outdoor promotions, such as banners, in addition to the less expensive methods like interviews, press conferences, and social media hype.

In the case of Barbie, it would appear that WB hasn't spent too much on TV promotions. Furthermore, the movie is being co-marketed with Mattel, meaning that Mattel's toys are promoting the movie, and the movie is promoting Mattel's toys, which is generating a great deal of cross-pollination hype. Given this context, a reasonable estimate for Gret Gerwig's movie's marketing budget would be $50 to $80 million. With the production budget added in, the total outlay works out to around $180 million.

Remarkably, current predictions for the movie's opening weekend revenue hover around $95 million, more than half the total budget. If this proves accurate, Barbie will turn a profit in short order after its premiere, which is slated for 21 July.