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EXCLUSIVE: Emily Blunt reflects on sneaking into a theater and seeing the 'Barbenheimer' effect firsthand

“I still get chills thinking about it."
/ Source: TODAY

Emily Blunt didn't anticipate her film "Oppenheimer" would become a pop culture phenomenon — then she saw the theater mania firsthand.

Blunt, who starred in the film as physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer's wife, Katherine “Kitty” Puening, told TODAY's Willie Geist that she wasn't able to see "Oppenheimer" with an audience until opening weekend.

She and her husband, John Krasinski, got two tickets to a matinee screening of the film in Nyack, New York, at a theater inside of a shopping mall.

"We snuck in the back when it went dark, and I saw a group of boys coming in dressed as Oppenheimer at 4 p.m. in Nyack, with pipes dangling out their mouths," she said with a laugh in an exclusive preview clip of her Sunday Sitdown interview airing Jan. 7. "And I just — I got goosebumps."

The U.K. premiere of "Oppenheimer" on July 13 was interrupted by the official start of the actor’s strike. The cast left the event early once the SAG-AFTRA strike officially began, which occurred before the screening of the film.

Florence Pugh, Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt
Florence Pugh, Cillian Murphy, Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan at a Q&A about "Oppenheimer" in November.Dave Benett / Getty Images

"Oppenheimer" opened in theaters on July 21, the same day as Greta Gerwig's bubble-gum pink romp "Barbie," setting in motion the pop culture phenomenon of the summer: "Barbenheimer."

The craze surrounding the shared release dates sparked memes, costumes — like the one's Blunt witnessed firsthand — and a double feature challenge that encouraged viewers to see both films back to back. (This, of course, created further debate over which order people should see the two movies.)

It was, as Blunt called it, "a movement."

"I still get chills thinking about it," she said.

After seeing the "Oppenheimer" costumes first hand, she said she called the film's star Cillian Murphy.

"I was like, 'This is more than a movie,'" she recalled saying.

The "Barbenheimer" phenomenon brought in more than $1.1 billion in global ticket sales, and opening weekend alone broke records.

Being at the center of it all was "joyful" and "unexpected," Blunt said.

"It was a celebration," she said. "It didn't mean that one was pitted against the other. You did want to go and see both."

The two stars of "Barbenheimer," Murphy and Margot Robbie, agree.

In a conversation for Variety's "Actors on Actors" series published in December, the two leads said the moment almost didn't even happen after an "Oppenheimer" producer asked Robbie, who also produced "Barbie," to move her movie's release date.

"I was like, 'We’re not moving our date. If you’re scared to be up against us, then you move your date.' And he’s like, 'We’re not moving our date. I just think it’d be better for you to move.' And I was like, 'We’re not moving!'" Robbie recounted.

Thankfully, "the world agreed" with that decision," Robbie said.

"(People) don’t like being told what to do," Murphy said of the organic creation of "Barbenheimer." "They will decide, and they will generate the interest themselves."