Warner Bros.’s Barbie has taken the world by storm, captivating audiences both as a blockbuster film and a cultural phenomenon.
Its box office earnings are on the verge of surpassing the remarkable $1 billion milestone, having already soared past $900 million as of Thursday.
Ordinarily, a studio achieving such remarkable success would promptly announce the development of a sequel.
Take Paramount Pictures, for instance, which unveiled plans for a sequel to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem a week before its theatrical release.
Yet, Barbie doesn’t conform to the usual movie patterns. Its release was marked by unique circumstances, including the challenges posed by simultaneous writers’ and actors’ strikes.
These complexities have cast a shadow over any potential disclosure regarding the return of the creative team or beloved stars.
In an unusual turn for a major intellectual property-based film, the talents responsible for the movie’s triumph have not yet inked deals for a sequel.
This unconventional situation runs counter to the prevailing practices of entertainment giants like Marvel, Star Wars, or Transformers, which typically secure their talent through binding options, sometimes under strenuous terms.
The enigmatic Margot Robbie, who breathed life into the iconic toy on screen and co-produced the film under her LuckyChap banner alongside her husband Tom Ackerley, lacks a contractual commitment and holds no obligation to reprise her role as Barbie.
She might consider returning solely as a producer, should she choose. While the specifics of her acting compensation and box office incentives remain undisclosed, any prospective agreement is bound to command an impressive figure.
Additionally, as industry observers speculate, potential merchandising arrangements could be up for negotiation.
Ryan Gosling, the charismatic Ken who stole scenes in the movie, similarly remains uncommitted to a sequel.
Gosling’s stance aligns with his reputation for adopting a “one and done” philosophy, avoiding entanglements with major studio blockbusters.
Although he’s been courted for lead roles in prominent intellectual property projects before, the steadfast “no sequel” disposition serves as a roadblock to deal negotiations, even if he were inclined to consider such offers.
Then enters the orchestrator of the film, Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the screenplay with her collaborator Noah Baumbach and skillfully directed the cinematic high-wire act.
In a parallel scenario, Gerwig also lacks an agreement for any potential sequel (the same holds true for Baumbach).
Sources reveal that several months before the movie’s premiere on July 21, the studio initiated discussions regarding Gerwig’s potential involvement in directing a sequel. Yet, her representatives at UTA tactfully deferred these conversations until after Barbie’s debut.
With the film now poised to break the $1 billion mark, this strategic move by her agents could easily be hailed as one of the shrewdest maneuvers in the realm of entertainment negotiation this year.
Barbie has indisputably emerged as a seismic force at the global box office, defying all expectations. While both Robbie and Gerwig held unwavering belief in their creation, the journey to box office gold was riddled with potential pitfalls that the team maneuvered skillfully.
The film was conceived and crafted under the leadership of Warner Bros. executives Toby Emmerich, COO Carolyn Blackwood, and Courtenay Valenti and Cate Adams.
This team faced the arduous task of persuading the broader company that a groundbreaking project with no precedent could indeed thrive. Their determination led to a budget increase, elevating the initial proposed amount from $80 million to $140 million.
When Warner Bros. joined forces with Discovery in the spring of 2022, the movie – then in the midst of production – confronted the risk of being swept aside by the winds of change, a fate shared by some other titles within the studio’s portfolio (as evidenced by the fate of Batgirl or Black Adam).
However, the newly appointed leaders, Michael De Luca and Pamela Abdy, took charge of the project. Recognizing the film’s essence and significance, they offered the creative team ample creative freedom during the post-production phase.
This period involved refining the movie’s tone, which seamlessly blended elements of broad comedy, camp, humanism, and musicality. The studio embarked on a marketing campaign that delicately balanced its messaging.
For instance, the initial tagline – “Whether you adore Barbie or harbor mixed feelings, this film is your delight” – posed challenges in its negotiation with toymaker Mattel, who understandably hesitated at the juxtaposition of “mixed feelings” and “Barbie.” Nevertheless, Mattel’s film division head and producer Robbie Brenner paved the way for collaboration.
Amidst this dynamic landscape stood Robbie and LuckyChap, pivotal in bringing the project to Warner Bros. in 2018 after the rights lapsed at Sony. Gerwig, joining the endeavor in 2021, completed this trio of essential figures.
A testament to their significance, Robbie’s commitment to portraying Barbie was contingent upon Gerwig’s involvement as the director. The duo’s persistent pursuit eventually led to Gosling’s involvement, overcoming his reservations and securing his participation.
Throughout the post-production phase, Gerwig meticulously navigated the intricate balance between the film’s various tones – from broad comedy to camp, humanism, and music.
The end result transcended initial categorizations and cultivated a profound appeal that beckoned repeated viewings.
The film notably spoke to an underserved audience, potentially paving the way for more female filmmakers and stories centered on the female perspective. The early awards buzz only adds to its achievements.
And so, the narrative circles back to the prospect of a sequel. The strikes have momentarily stifled negotiations, but the film’s escalating box office triumph serves as a catalyst for potential future discussions.
In the interim, Gerwig takes the opportunity to recharge and immerse herself in the enchanting world of Barbieland.
In a recent interview with The New York Times, she confided, “For now, it’s everything I have. At the end of each project, I often feel that I’ve exhausted all my ideas and accomplished everything I set out to do.
I wouldn’t wish to dampen anyone else’s aspirations, but for me, at this juncture, I find myself at ground zero.
“As discussions shift back to the realm of reality and considerations veer towards a potential sequel, it’s reasonable to expect that negotiations will come adorned with an array of numbers sporting multiple zeroes.
This underscores the substantial economic prospects that await in the horizon.