Nothing was more fun than going to the movies this past weekend. Theaters were packed to the gills, with people finally coming back to the movies. Not since before COVID-19 had we seen this size of an audience come to see a movie.

This past weekend, they were there to see two movies.

Barbie and Oppenheimer will be the first chapter in the book written on Hollywood's recovery from COVID-19. They scored massive opening weekends, with Barbie cruising in at over $160 million domestic and Oppenheimer with over $80 million domestic.

These movies are certified hits, and executives and CEOs all over town are watching the cultural phenomenon they provide and thinking about how they can bring the same thing into their studios.

So what lessons should Hollywood in general learn from the Barbenheimer phenomenon?

Let's discuss...

1. Empower Directors

Margot Robbie as the first Barbie doll, 'Barbie''Barbie'Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Auteurs are directors who have a strong artistic vision and control over their projects. Well, we will never get any more auteurs entering the Hollywood space if studios continue to trample over the unique voices who come to work in this town.

Giving directors more creative freedom can lead to innovative and compelling films that resonate with audiences.

Sure, there are constraints like budget and time, but empowering a director to see their vision through gives us a final product that can feel fully realized and welcoming to an audience.

2. Embrace Originality

Robert J. Oppenheimer, played by Cillian Murphy, walking through a hallway full of reporters taking photos, 'Oppenheimer''Oppenheimer'

Credit: Universal Pictures

While Barbie is based on intellectual property and Oppenheimer is a biopic, they both ooze originality that comes from directors with a distinct points of view and missions.

They are original films that stand out due to their unique storytelling, visual style, and thematic exploration. Hollywood should be more willing to take risks on original ideas and encourage filmmakers to express their creative visions.

Even if those ideas are based on IP or famous people, let storytellers come in and bring originality to the screen.

3. Story and Character Matter

Two Kens arguing with a Barbie breaking them up, 'Barbie'


Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

We covered Nolan's words about the essence of film last week, but they're worth reiterating here. Story is "the essence of what the film is,'" and it's what the audience wants most.

Successful films tend to prioritize strong storytelling and well-developed characters over big-budget special effects. Hollywood should remember the importance of compelling narratives that connect emotionally with audiences.

We love Barbie because she's talking to a generation about what it means to be a woman in this world. We loved Oppenheimer because it's about opening Pandora's Box and dealing with the regret and consequences of those actions.

These stories are powerful and moving.

Balance Art and Commerce

Director Christopher Nolan working on set of 'Oppenheimer'Behind-the-scenes of Christopher Nolan on 'Oppenheimer'

Credit: Universal Studios

Look, corporate CEOs only care about money. We need to get over that because it is never going to change. But the balance of art and commerce is what has sustained Hollywood for over 100 years.

Barbie is based on a Mattel toy, the movie was made to sell more toys and merch, but out of that money mission came a story by a filmmaker that is funny, unflinching, and wholly original. While artistic integrity is crucial, Hollywood can find a balance between artistic expression and commercial viability. Films can be successful without compromising creativity.

Nolan could have delivered a straightforward biopic, but, instead, he jumps in time, uses different aspect ratios, and has portions of the story in black and white.

Still, commerce came for each movie because we let the art shine as well.

Nurture Talent

Director Greta Gerwig and Margot Robbie as Barbie on the set of 'Barbie'

Greta Gerwig directing Margot Robbie on the set of 'Barbie'

Credit: Twitter

It's hard to picture, but there was a time when Christopher Nolan was just an indie filmmaker trying to make a name for himself. He came off Following and did Memento, then was thrust into the Batman universe. We watched him grow from there on, taking bigger budgets and telling bigger stories.

Greta Gerwig started as an actress and writer, then stepped into the directing chair with the indie-hit Lady Bird, and then parlayed that into Little Women, and, now, Barbie.

By believing in and nurturing their careers, we saw them grow and built different generations of filmmakers.

We do not do that enough anymore. Hollywood should invest in nurturing new and emerging talent. Auteurs often start with smaller, independent projects before gaining recognition. Supporting and mentoring new talent can lead to the discovery of fresh voices that can create successful films in the future.

Summing Up Lessons From Barbenheimer

Hollywood can be a fickle and cynical place. It's hard not to think the only lessons studios will take away from these movies are marketing based, but I try to give them more credit for that.

I'm hoping these lessons lead to a deeper investment in Hollywood and other directors finding success and growing their careers. I am so happy to have gotten to see both of these movies, and I hope that the box office continues to grow.

The world is a much better place with great movies and great theatrical experiences in it.

Let me know what you think in the comments.