By Ava Gilchrist

A Potential Barbenheimer 2.0? ‘Wicked’ And ‘Gladiator II’ Slated For The Same Release Date

Choose your fighter: Ozian witches or the literal Roman Empire?
Jon M. Chu’s musical fantasy Wicked is slated to be released on the same November 2024 date as Ridley Scott’s epic historical sequel, Gladiator II. Will their shared theatrical schedule have the same effect as “Barbenheimer”? Credit: Instagram/@arianagrande

It’s a phenomenon that Hollywood faces every so often: do you choose the light-hearted musical comedy or serious action-packed drama when those respective films launch in theatres at the same time?

The occurrence, now colloquially known as Barbenheimer after Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer battled it out for the higher-grossing opening, could be a stroke of genius. Not only do the movies piggyback on each other’s marketing strategies, but are catapulted by the public discourse predicting which will be the distribution.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that the powers at be have planned what two features will receive the double feature treatment, with part one of John Chu’s adaptation of the Tony Award-winning musical Wicked and Ridley Scott’s historical epic sequel Gladiator II slated to be released on the same day.

Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo on set in costume as Glinda and Elphaba with Wicked director, Jon M. Chu. Credit: Instagram/@arianagrande

Indeed, come November 22, 2024, audiences will have to choose whether they’ll pledge allegiance to singing Ozian witches or the literal Roman Empire. Or, more accurately as we saw with Barbenheimer, which order to consume the blockbusters in. Interestingly, there are more similarities between Wicked and Gladiator II than originally meets the eye. Both are highly-anticipated films following up an original production.

In the case of the movie-musical, the film is a silver-screen variant of the Broadway sensation that premiered in 2003. With pop star Ariana Grande starring as Glinda the Good Witch and West End veteran Cynthia Erivo appearing as Elphaba, netizens have been hungrily counting down the days (and begging for an early release of the film’s soundtrack) since the casting was announced.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 06: Ariana Grande and Cynthia Erivo perform onstage during The 2024 Met Gala Celebrating “Sleeping Beauties: Reawakening Fashion” at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2024 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue)

Gladiator II, on the other hand, will see Paul Mescal helm the project as Lucius, the fictional son of Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, whose life takes a similar trajectory to Russell Crowe’s Maximus. After being forced into slavery following the Roman Empire’s conquest of North Africa, Lucius resolves to fight in the arena while opposing the rule of sadistic twins inspired by the legend of Rome’s inception, Romulus and Remus.

Of course, if antiquity isn’t for you, there are always videos of Mescal training at the gym in preparation for the role available to view now for your pleasure.

Paul Mescal at Gucci Cruise 2025 Fashion Show held at the Tate Modern on May 13, 2024 in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Noorunisa/WWD via Getty Images)

Naturally, netizens are calculating what portmanteau is best to coin this double billing. Both “Wickiator” and “Gladwick” are contenders, but neither has the spunk or pizzazz of Barbenheimer.

Last year, Margot Robbie opened up to Cillian Murphy, who took home the Oscar for Best Actor due to his performance as the titular physicist and father of the atomic bomb, about her approach to the duelling features.“

One of [Oppenheimer’s] producers called me,” she began. “He was like, ‘I think you guys should move your date,’ and I was like, ‘We’re not moving our date. If you’re scared to be up against us, then you move your date.’” 

Watch the leads of the respective award-winning releases discuss the cultural phenomenon surrounding their shared July 21, 2023 release date in Variety’s “Actors on Actors” series below:

This story first appeared on GRAZIA International.