Early San Francisco ‘Barbie’ audiences flock to the film

“Barbie” hits theaters this weekend alongside double-feature candidate “Oppenheimer.” But some lucky San Francisco fans got a glimpse Tuesday night at the AMC Kabuki 8 theater in Japantown. Their interest was not disappointed.

Filmgoers started lining up two hours before the screening. By the time the theater started letting people in, the queue stretched across the block.

Members of the crowd, nearly all in pink (including a few dressed in formal Barbie-inspired attire), compared the experience to seeing a midnight premiere of “Harry Potter” early on.

I tried to understand whether these were Barbie die-hards or wavers, so I asked several people how long they had been fans of the doll.

“Since I was 2 years old,” said one.

“Four decades ago,” said another.

“My whole life,” said a third.

A Barbie-themed lounge for influencers at the premiere of “Barbie” at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theater on July 18, 2023 in San Francisco.

Photo by Daniel Taormina-Keenan

A man with platinum blonde hair, La Ryan Gosling’s Ken in the film, checked my ticket. He invited me to take a selfie at the Barbie selfie booth (a life size doll box) and pointed me in the direction of the theatre, but I couldn’t access the Barbie lounge as it was only for influencers.

Inside the theater, the excitement was undiminished.

“Hi, Barbie!” said the night’s emcee as he took the stage before the screening.

“Hi, Ken!” The capacity meeting automatically responded.

Barbie Doll Box Photobooth in a preview "Barbie" Movie on July 18, 2023 at AMC Kabuki 8 Theater in San Francisco.

Barbie doll boxes photobooth at a preview for the movie “Barbie” at AMC Kabuki 8 Theater on July 18, 2023 in San Francisco.


Photo by Daniel Taormina-Keenan

Barbie-themed lounge for influencers in preview "Barbie" Movie on July 18, 2023 at AMC Kabuki 8 Theater in San Francisco.

A Barbie-themed lounge for influencers at a preview for the movie “Barbie” at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theater on July 18, 2023 in San Francisco.


Cape Lehman/SFGATE

Barbie-themed lounge for influencers in preview "Barbie" Movie on July 18, 2023 at AMC Kabuki 8 Theater in San Francisco.

A Barbie-themed lounge for influencers at a preview for the movie “Barbie” at the AMC Kabuki 8 Theater on July 18, 2023 in San Francisco.


Photo by Daniel Taormina-Keenan


A preview of “Barbie” at the Kabuki Theater in San Francisco. (Photo: Daniel Taormina-Keenan/Gabe Lehman/SFGATE)

The crowd was engaged and laughing throughout the film, usually at Gosling’s expense. Lines by Margot Robbie, Issa Rae and America Ferrera were followed by at least three rounds of applause.

If the clear bias of the San Francisco crowd is any indication, the film will live up to its sky-high critical and commercial expectations.

“Is that the real Barbie?” A young woman asked when Margot Robbie appeared on screen. Although the film pokes fun at Mattel and Barbie stereotypes based on this screening, most fans will consider “Barbie” a loving tribute to the classic doll.



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