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If ‘Wicked’ and ‘Gladiator 2’ Is the Next ‘Barbenheimer,’ It Needs a Better Portmanteau Than ‘Wickiator’

John Chu’s movie musical and Ridley Scott’s epic sequel will hit theaters on the same day in November, prompting speculation that the next ‘Barbie’/’Oppenheimer’ has arrived

Paul Mescal and Wicked

Dave Benett/Getty Images/Gucci Cosmos; Universal Studios

Late Monday afternoon, July 1, a minor piece of movie release news dropped: Part one of the highly-anticipated movie adaptation of the smash musical Wicked would hit theaters a few days earlier than expected. It’s still slated to drop around the Thanksgiving holiday, but in bumping the release date from Nov. 27 to Nov. 22, executives at Universal may or may not have been hedging on people doing exactly what we’re doing right now — pointing out that Nov. 22 is also when Ridley Scott’s highly-anticipated Gladiator 2 will hit theaters, giving us the first potential successor to Barbenheimer, the box office bonanza brought by the joint arrivals of Barbie and Oppenheimer.

First of all, whether or not this is a fluke or a craven, calculated Hollywood move is completely beside the point. What matters most in the immediate aftermath of this news is whether Wicked and Gladiator 2 can even combine for a portmanteau as satisfying as Barbenheimer.

Frankly, the answers are not very promising: “Wickiator” and “Gladwick” were thrown out in the Rolling Stone Slack channel where this Very Important Story was being discussed. They’ll both certainly do in a pinch, but the consonants are hard and sharp, lacking the soft, goofy buoyancy of “Barbenheimer.” Other possibilities include “Gladiated” (which is just stupid and doesn’t effectively hint at Wicked’s involvement) and “Wadiator” (which sounds like a toddler saying “radiator”).

That said, Wickiator (if we must) fits the Barbenheimer mold in that they’re two distinctly different types of blockbusters — a grisly historical epic and a lush musical fairytale — with all-star casts, celebrated directors and a whole lot of hype around them. Only time, the subtleties (or lack thereof) of the Hollywood marketing machine, and ultimately the Thanksgiving weekend box office numbers will let us know if “Wickiator” is anywhere near the thing that Barbenheimer was.

In case you can’t tell, we’re already skeptical. Barbenheimer was a singular moment that arguably can’t be replicated. That’s partly because both films were unique and excellent in their own ways but also because their joint release wasn’t some grand plan. It was either a total coincidence or — even better — the possible result of some trivial behind-the-scenes meddling.

As the gossip-y legend goes, Christopher Nolan moved from his longtime studio, Warner Bros, to Universal Pictures for Oppenheimer, reportedly after growing frustrated with Warner’s pandemic-era pivot to streaming. Universal then slated Oppenheimer for Nolan’s typical mid-July release week, only for Warner to eventually drop Greta Gerwig’s Barbie on the same day. There were subsequent rumors that Nolan was upset with Warner’s decision, though the filmmaker obviously never said anything outright. And long after the dust had settled — and everyone had come out the other end a whole lot richer — Margot Robbie seemed to lend some truth to the speculation, saying that an Oppenheimer producer had tried to get her to push the Barbie release date.

So basically what Wicked and Gladiator 2 really needs to become the next Barbenheimer (besides a better portmanteau) is some stupid feud that explains the Wicked date change. Because at the end of the day Barbenheimer was arguably the result of the only pure motive for anything in Hollywood: Petty infighting.

From Rolling Stone US