The next Barbenheimer? Wicked moves release to same day as Gladiator 2

Universal’s film adaptation of the hit Broadway musical, Wicked, is arriving five days earlier than planned.

The film starring Ariana Grande as Glinda the Good Witch was set to go head-to-head against Moana 2 on Wednesday, November 27, the day before Thanksgiving, but will now release on Friday, November 22.

With Disney’s Moana sequel and Wicked likely to attract a similar demographic, the latter will now face off against Ridley Scott’s epic Gladiator II, starring Paul Mescal.

The clash is already drawing comparisons to last year’s “Barbenheimer” event when Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer arrived on the same day. As with Wicked and Gladiator II, both films were largely aimed at opposite sexes; however, many people committed to seeing the films one after the other as part of a self-curated double bill.

The result was a global phenomenon that breathed new life into theaters across the world.

Barbie became the biggest film of the year, amassing takings of $1.45bn (£1.15bn), while Oppenheimer earned $953.7m (£759.9m) to become the highest-grossing biopic of all time, surpassing Bohemian Rhapsody.

Ariana Granda is Glinda and Cynthia Erivo is Elphaba in ‘Wicked’ (right) (X/Universal Studios)
Ariana Granda is Glinda and Cynthia Erivo is Elphaba in ‘Wicked’ (right) (X/Universal Studios)

Meanwhile, Oppenheimer dominated awards season, winning seven Oscars.

The on-screen Wicked story will be split into two parts, with the sequel, Wicked: Part Two, to be released in November 2025.

The film’s teaser trailer dropped during the Super Bowl last year and quickly amassed more than 230 million views online.

Cynthia Erivo plays the green-skinned anti-hero Elphaba in the alternative telling of the classic Wizard of Oz tale.

British actor Jonathan Bailey plays the witches’ love interest Fiyero, Michelle Yeoh plays Madam Morrible, Jeff Goldblum plays the Wizard and Saturday Night Live star Bowen Yang is Pfannee, a student at Glinda and Elphaba’s school.

Also in the cast is Broadway star Ethan Slater, who plays lovelorn student Boq. Grande and Slater met while on set and have been in a relationship since last summer, following the end of both of their marriages.

Meanwhile, director Scott’s highly anticipated follow-up to the 2000 classic starring Russell Crowe will tell the story of Lucius (Mescal), the son of Lucilla (portrayed by Connie Nielsen). Lucilla was the lover of Crowe’s soldier Maximus, who came to his demise at the end of the first film.

Fred Hechinger (The White Lotus) and Joseph Quinn (Stranger Things) play co-emperors Geta and Caracalla, respectively, while Denzel Washington plays a former slave seeking revenge.

Wicked and Gladiator II will be released in theaters on November 22.