Disney’s new Haunted Mansion movie had a lot going for it — classic Disney nostalgia, several big-name celebrities, a huge marketing campaign, and a built-in Haunted Mansion fanbase. That said, the movie had even more forces working against it. (Can we blame the same restless spirits that are always stopping the ride?)
From an outsider’s perspective, it seemed like Disney had all the ingredients for a successful recipe. People love the Haunted Mansion attraction; people love new summer movies — what could go wrong? Is Disney’s “take what people love and turn it into a live-action movie” approach starting to lose its appeal for moviegoers? Was the disappointing Haunted Mansion flop Disney’s fault?
There are about a dozen reasons Haunted Mansion didn’t work, but truthfully, a big part of the movie’s box office failure was due to poor timing. Is the big team in charge of deciding the film’s release date just out of touch with the average family’s moviegoing capacity? Do Hollywood producers talk to each other? Did Disney overestimate people’s loyalty?
Given the lineup of films in theaters this July, Disney had some stiff competition. With Barbie and Oppenheimer the runaway success stories of the summer, Disney was competing with two of the most talked-about movies of 2023.
In fact, Barbie joined the billion-dollar movie club while Oppenheimer brought in half a billion dollars worldwide, per Entertainment Weekly. Haunted Mansion, which premiered one week later, brought in $24 million opening weekend, compared to Barbie‘s $155 million and Oppenheimer‘s $80.5 million debuts, according to Variety.
Even taking the Hollywood actors’ strike out of the equation for a moment, critics agree the film didn’t stand a chance against the two biggest movies of the summer.
Now, returning to the ongoing actors’ strike, it seems safe to assume that Disney could have used a big promotional boost from its actors. The film had a loaded cast, including Jamie Lee Curtis, Tiffany Haddish, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, LaKeith Stanfield, Danny DeVito, and Jared Leto.
Despite the big names associated with the film, none of the stars were able to promote the film in any capacity due to the actors’ strict union agreements. This includes no red carpet appearances, no social media posts, no interviews, and no participation in any written articles while on strike. Haunted Mansion was the first major movie to feel the impact of the Hollywood actors’ strike, according to The New York Times.
Compared to the promotional blitz we saw ahead of the Barbie premiere, Haunted Mansion missed out on any advertising opportunities with the stars from the movie. If no one is talking about your movie, it stands to reason that no one will talk about the movie when it premieres.
Perhaps the film was cursed before the idea even came to fruition, though. After all, Disney’s previous attempt at a Haunted Mansion-inspired movie was equally unsuccessful at the box office back in 2003.
That’s not to say audiences are totally uninterested in ride-inspired movies. Disney’s 2021 Jungle Cruise movie, which premiered around the same date as Haunted Mansion, earned a score of 62% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Haunted Mansion is currently sitting at 39%.
Early reviews proved to be indifferent at best, with The New York Times critic quoted saying, “There is a mansion, it is haunted, boo, blah, the end.” Yikes.
So, could Disney have prevented this movie from flopping? It’s hard to say. On one hand, it may have proven beneficial to wait for the Halloween season to release the movie, given that the movie is about a haunted mansion. For many critics, this seemed like a missed opportunity to promote this film as a Halloween movie instead of a summer blockbuster.
On the other hand, perhaps audiences are just feeling burned out. The live-action remake machine is churning away, but, like early reviews for Haunted Mansion, the general consensus for new live-action remakes seems lukewarm at best. Is it time to retire this formula? If the trend continues, Disney might not have a choice.
Disney is stalled. It might take a full evacuation off the train (please remain seated until a Cast Member is able to assist you) and a hard reset to get back on track. But hey, if Haunted Mansion Cast Members deal with a breakdown, so can Hollywood. In the meantime, we’re always on the lookout for the latest Disney news, so stay tuned for more.
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Have you seen the new Haunted Mansion movie? Why or why not? What did you think of it? Tell us in the comments!