Did Gran Turismo Really Beat Barbie At The Box Office? It's Complicated

If you've been following entertainment trades over the past 48 hours, you may have been shocked to see that "Gran Turismo," the strange and critically underwhelming video game adaptation-biopic hybrid from Sony Pictures, somehow managed to race past Warner Bros.' imposing "Barbie"–"Blue Beetle" doubleheader, finishing first at the domestic weekend box office. So how did Neill Blomkamp's racing feature quietly overtake Greta Gerwig's pink monolith? The answer lies in a last-minute delay and a protracted "sneak preview" period.

With the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strikes taking away promotions from marquee names like Orlando Bloom and David Harbour, Sony announced in late July that the film's official release date would be pushed from August 11 to August 25. This meant that preview screenings of the film lasted for an unusual nine days, revving up $3–6 million of revenue that was then added to its opening total — allowing "Gran Turismo" to just barely pass "Barbie."

Well played, Sony

Sony's Formula One-worthy maneuvering drew the attention of numerous box office analysts over the weekend, including The Hollywood Reporter's Pamela McClintock and Puck founding partner Matt Belloni, who pointed out (with varying degrees of snark) that "Gran Turismo" would have barely scraped past "Blue Beetle" on its debut number alone, much less surpassed an ever-persistent "Barbie."

While it would be disingenuous to claim that "Gran Turismo" was delayed solely to boost its opening box office numbers (the plan seems to have been to generate buzz from the previews, not just cash), it's arguably equally disingenuous (though entirely fair game) for Sony to present the film's opening cume with nine days of added fuel. On the other hand, it isn't hard to imagine that a "Barbie"-toppling opening will sound better than a mediocre debut to shareholders who are too concerned with the ramifications of the Hollywood shutdown to worry about a couple of weekends of previews.

This piece was written during the 2023 WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. To learn more about why writers and actors are currently on strike, click here for an up-to-date explainer from our Looper team.