Sie FilmCenter Treats Denver to the Barbenheimer Experience | Westword
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Sie FilmCenter Treats Denver to the Barbenheimer Experience

Sie, the only Denver theater showing Oppenheimeron 35-millimeter film, is also hosting early screenings of Barbie! But if you want the full Barbenheimer experience, go to the Glitterbomb Party.
Barbenheimer hits Denver's Sie FilmCenter, with a Glitterbomb Party celebrating Barbie and Oppenheimer on the films' opening night.
Barbenheimer hits Denver's Sie FilmCenter, with a Glitterbomb Party celebrating Barbie and Oppenheimer on the films' opening night. Courtesy of Universal Film/Courtesy of Warner Bros.

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Following a sluggish start to the summer movie season, audiences will have two very different and highly anticipated blockbusters to choose from with the simultaneous release of Christopher Nolan's dark nuclear drama Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig's colorful feminist flick Barbie. AMC Theatres reported that more than 20,000 of its members have created their own double feature by purchasing tickets to see both films on the same day, a phenomenon that's being called "Barbenheimer."

"I can't think of another opening weekend in my lifetime that has had the same kind of excitement around it," says Keith Garcia, artistic director at the Sie FilmCenter. "The release of Barbie and Oppenheimer feels like an event; people are making a whole day of it, and there is a lot of debating about which one you should see first. Oppenheimer is about the creation of the nuclear bomb, which is fitting because its release on July 21, along with Barbie, is primed to cause an explosion at the box office." (Like many other theaters, the Sie is offering early showings of both films on June 20.)

Hollywood studios have frequently released several big-budget movies on the same weekend. The Empire Strikes Back and The Shining; Blade Runner and The Thing; Ghostbusters and Gremlins; The Matrix and 10 Things I Hate About You; and The Dark Knight and Mamma Mia! were all released on the same weekend and forced to duke it out at the box office. However, in an increasingly competitive film industry, studios have become more protective of their release dates.

"Most film distributors and studio executives want to keep a date for themselves, so if another studio schedules a major movie on a date they were occupying, they will move their film a week earlier or something," Garcia explains. "Studios don't like to share screen space, especially on their opening weekend, but I feel like Warner Bros. [which is distributing Barbie] and Universal Pictures [which is distributing Oppenheimer] felt these films were so opposite of each other that they could attract different audiences on the same weekend."
click to enlarge barbie film set
Audiences will have two very different blockbusters to choose from on July 21 with the simultaneous release of Christopher Nolan's dark nuclear drama Oppenheimer and Greta Gerwig's colorful feminist flick Barbie.
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
Barbie and Oppenheimer could not be more different in subject matter, style or tone. Barbie stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling in a bright neon fantasyland as they go on a quest for self-discovery in the real world. Oppenheimer, on the other hand, stars Cillian Murphy, Robert Downey Jr., Emily Blunt and Florence Pugh, and is based on the 2006 Pulitzer Prize winner in biography, American Prometheus by Kai Bird and Martin J. Sherwin, about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist who helped develop the first nuclear weapons.

"What I've found interesting is that both movies seem to be attracting the exact same audience," Garcia says. "People who I hear talking about Barbie will also tell me they are buying tickets to see Oppenheimer, and vice versa."

According to The Wrap, Oppenheimer is currently tracking at around $35-$40 million for its opening weekend, and Barbie is forecasted to bring in a whopping $70-$80 million for its first weekend. This positive box office tracking comes after a string of summer flops. "Barbie and Oppenheimer could make or break movie theaters this summer," Garcia says. "As we still continue to come out of the pandemic, we just haven't had a ton of slam dunks at the box office, so it's nice that people are excited to see some more original movies in theaters."

The Sie FilmCenter has a number of events to commemorate the Barbenheimer release on Friday, July 21. For Barbie fans who want to see the film as soon as possible, the Sie is hosting early screenings on Thursday, July 20.

"If you come see Barbie on Thursday, you get to brag to people on its release day that you've already seen it," Garcia says. "We are planning a Barbenheimer Glitterbomb Lobby Party on opening night. The party will have photo opportunities, music, a costume contest and special treats created by Little Man Ice Cream Company for the Sie FilmCenter. We're not a big corporate theater, so we can't spend millions of dollars on merchandising with all these bells and whistles like other places do. But what Sie does offer is a tight-knit community of fans the space to celebrate this momentous weekend." 

The Glitterbomb Party will be held on Friday, July 21, at 6 p.m. and is open to anyone who purchases a ticket to see either film at any time at the Sie. Attendees are encouraged to wear their best Barbenheimer outfits to compete in the costume contest for two tickets to Summer Scream, Denver Film's big adult party fundraiser at Lakeside Amusement Park.

"We definitely encourage dressing up when you attend, regardless of whether you go to the opening-night party; we think everyone should get in on the action," Garcia says. "I'm excited to see the mix of people dressed as tortured 1940s scientists and all the iterations of Barbie and Ken. There are also going to be Barbie and Oppenheimer specialty cocktails that you can purchase at the bar."
click to enlarge cillian murphy
Oppenheime is about the theoretical physicist who helped develop the first nuclear weapons.
Courtesy of Universal Film
The Sie will screen Oppenheimer on 35-millimeter film at the theater in order to provide die-hard Christopher Nolan fans with the best viewing experience.

"This was the way people watched movies before digital took over in the 2010s," Garcia says. "Christopher Nolan shot Oppenheimer on an IMAX camera, and we are not that, but seeing a movie in 35mm is its own experience; the way it shows colors and shadows is just better than digital. Sie is maintaining a really great format for showing movies that has long disappeared. We are the only theater in Denver that still has its 35-millimeter system operational and the only theater in the area showing Oppenheimer in this format."

Garcia hopes that the Sie's embrace of Barbenheimer will attract new patrons to the theater.

"The Sie FilmCenter is a nonprofit art-house theater, but I like to underline that by saying we play all types of films," Garcia says. "Sie is used to playing a lot of devastating, depressing material — that is kind of our bread and butter — like potent documentaries and piercing foreign films. And while Oppenheimer is on the serious side, we are looking forward to having some fun this summer. Some may think Barbie is too mainstream for us, but we believe that just because a film is entertaining does not mean it cannot also be well crafted. Many people are unaware that Sie even exists, so we believe this is a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to new audience members. We are hoping people have a great time here and decide to come back to check out one of the indie films they saw around Sie in a trailer or on a poster."

The theater's bet appears to be paying off. Early ticket sales for both Barbie and Oppenheimer at the Sie have been strong. "There have been a lot of presales for the films," Garcia notes. "People are clearly eager to see these movies, and we can't wait for people to experience Barbenheimer at the Sie FilmCenter."
click to enlarge barbie film set
More than 20,000 people have purchased tickets to see Barbie and Oppenheimer on the same day.
Courtesy of Warner Bros.
While everyone's Barbenheimer journey will be unique, Garcia was brave enough to wade into the controversy and share his personal viewing order of the films during opening week.

"As a big Barbie stan, I will probably see Barbie first and then go from there," Garcia says. "Although I am about equally excited for both movies, Christopher Nolan can sometimes be a little much for me, but he made the Batman trilogy, which I love. I'm intrigued to see Cillian Murphy as the lead, and I am very interested in Oppenheimer's story. And then there's Barbie, which is this smart, adult take on a property that should, by all accounts, be terrible. It has big Wes Anderson vibes, which is interesting, and Greta Gerwig is this beloved filmmaker and actress that we all trust. I think everyone knew this was going to be something different and special since the trailer dropped."

Glitterbomb Party, 6 p.m. Friday, July 21, Sie FilmCenter, 2510 East Colfax Avenue. Find more information at denverfilm.org.
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