INDEPENDENT cinemas across Scotland have picked Barbie in the battle of the blockbusters this weekend.

The competition between the new Barbie movie, directed by Greta Gerwig, and Christopher Nolan’s biographical thriller Oppenheimer has become an internet phenomenon – referred to as ‘Barbenheimer’.

Both of the highly anticipated films were released on Friday and have drawn huge attention due to their contrasting genres – with many opting to head to the cinemas for a dramatic double bill.

But some smaller Scottish cinemas have been forced to vote with their feet and pick just one of the two films to screen in its opening week – with Barbie winning out for most.

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Hamish McIntyre, from Fort William’s Highland Cinema, said: “If you take a big flagship film it has to play on all the bigger screens all day.

“So we had to pick one. We couldn’t have them both at the same time.

 “So I went for Barbie, because all of the international predictions are that it’s going to be bigger. It’s much more of a summer, family-friendly film.”

Barbie stars Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as leads Ken and Barbie – alongside Doctor Who incumbent Scot Ncuti Gatwa – and has drawn praise for its subversion of the Barbie brand.

Oppenheimer, on the other hand, has been touted as among Nolan’s best films, with critics hailing its high tension and grand visuals.

“At least we don’t have that ‘Barbenheimer’ problem from the memes online,” McIntyre added. “Because there’s no choice. At our cinema you can only see Barbie this week.”

Highland Cinema’s biggest film of the year so far was The Super Mario Bros. Movie, catering to their younger, family-friendly audience, but McIntyre said Barbie could potentially reach that high bar.

He added that Oppenheimer, which has a three-hour runtime, is a much bigger time commitment, so cinemas would only be able to screen around half as many showings compared to Barbie, which runs for just under two hours.

As well as Highland Cinema, the Fraser Centre in Tranent, Macrobert Arts Centre in Stirling, Newton Stewart Cinema, Oban Phoenix Cinema and Dunoon’s Studio cinema have all decided to bring Barbie to their screens ahead of Oppenheimer.

Jennie Larney, programmer at Oban Phoenix Cinema, said the choice was paying off as families headed to the big screen during the school holidays.

She said: “It’s doing incredibly well. It’s not sold out, but very close to that.”

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Larney said that a string of major films with “bankable names” like Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford – such as Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning and Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny – had helped the cinema make up for an industry-wide downturn last year.

She said: “We had a terrible slump last year and we didn’t really recover from that until May of this year probably.

“Covid obviously didn’t help us very much and then the cost-of-living crisis in some respects was even worse.

“People are afraid to spend money and the cinema is seen as a bit of a luxury.

“But we seem to be recovering with the films that we’ve got at the moment.”

McIntyre and Larney highlighted the recent heatwave across Scotland as a cause for concern in the cinema world, with the former saying he is often “praying for rain” and Larney describing Scots taking to the outdoors as a “disaster”.

Montrose Playhouse assistant manager Damien Murray, who was in the fortunate position of being able to screen both films, said three screenings had already been “pretty much fully booked” two days ahead of the opening night.

He said: “We’re in quite a unique situation for an independent cinema where we don’t have any big competitors near us.

“We have quite a lot of dedicated customers, but obviously the blockbusters do bring in a lot more people.”

A spokesperson for the Dundee Contemporary Arts, which is also screening both films, said the cinema was “on track for one of our most successful weekends ever!”.