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‘Haunted Mansion’ Director Admits He Was “Not Surprised” by Film’s Summer Failure

Justin Simien Haunted Mansion release
Credit: Disney

On July 28, Disney released its newest live-action film, Haunted Mansion. The film starred LaKeith Stanfield as Ben Matthias, a former paranormal investigator brought in to help single mom Gabbie (Rosario Dawson) and her young son Travis (Chase Dillon) clear their house of ghosts. Ben must team up with Father Kent (Owen Wilson), psychic Harriet (Tiffany Haddish), and history professor Bruce Davis (Danny DeVito) if he wants to have any chance to stop the ghosts from following him home.

Haunted Mansion Black leading man

Credit: Disney

Related: Disney Announces Haunted Mansion Expansion

Haunted Mansion was originally supposed to be released in March 2023, but the release was pushed back. Unfortunately, just weeks before the film’s release, the Screen Actors Guild announced that its actors were on strike. That meant that the stars of the new movie were not allowed to do interviews or promote the film in any way. They could also not attend the movie’s world premiere at Disneyland Resort.

Justin Simien Haunted Mansion lando

Credit: Disney

Sadly, when the film finally hit theaters, it didn’t perform nearly as well as Disney had hoped. However, it didn’t seem to surprise one person — Haunted Mansion director, Justin Simien. In speaking with The Wrap, Simien said that if anyone at Disney had spoken to him, he would have been honest about the problems he saw coming.

“There was a lot of stuff going on with the strike…a lot of stuff that had nothing to do with the movie that I think really got in the way, and that was frustrating to see because I came up in publicity. If you had asked me and sat down with me…I would have seen some of these things coming. I’ll put it that way.”

Justin Simien Disney

Credit: Disney

Related: Haunted Mansion Director Admits He Would Not Have Made Film Without a Black Leading Man

One of the biggest issues? Haunted Mansion was released just one week after Barbie and Oppenheimer. Known as Barbenheimer, those two films dominated the summer, with no other film even being close to competing.

“There’s a lot of folks in the industry that just kept saying, ‘I don’t know’ and ‘That’ll probably not be as big as it sounds like.’ And I was like, ‘It’s going to be huge. “What ‘Oppenheimer’ did so well — the marketing for ‘Oppenheimer’ embraced the fact that ‘Barbie’ was coming with this gigantic, cultural juggernaut. I don’t know that our campaign necessarily embraced or acknowledged that we were essentially coming out in the shadow of what was clearly such a box office phenomenon.”

Barbie Movie

Credit: Warner Bros.

Related: Haunted Mansion Ranks Among Disney’s Worst Ride-Based Films

What makes things even more disappointing is that Disney fans love the new movie. Despite only earning $33 million during opening weekend, Haunted Mansion has an 84% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Disney fans love how much the movie pays homage to one of the most iconic rides at Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

haunted mansion disneyland

Credit: Disney

Related: Did Disney Hocus Pocus Its New Haunted Mansion Movie?

Many fans feel that Disney should not have released the movie over the summer at all. Disney had experience with this and knows how hard it is for a Halloween-type movie to be successful if it comes out in the summer. In July 1993, Disney released Hocus Pocus in theaters nationwide. The movie absolutely tanked. But now, it is one of the most popular and beloved Disney Halloween movies of all time.

Hocus Pocus returns to theaters

Credit: Disney

From the time Disney announced that Haunted Mansion would be released in July, they received a ton of complaints. Fans were begging for the movie to be released during the fall. Those requests were amplified when the SAG strike began. People couldn’t believe that Disney would continue to push a movie when its stars couldn’t promote it during the most crucial time before its release.

Haunted Mansion also stars Jamie Lee Curtis as Madame Leota and Jared Leto as Crump, AKA the Hatbox Ghost. J.R. Adduci plays the infamous master Gracey. The movie is currently available to stream on Disney+.

About Krysten Swensen

A born and bred New England girl living the Disney life in Southern California. I love to read, to watch The Golden Girls, and love everything to do with Disney and Universal. I also love to share daily doses of Disney on my Disney Instagram @BrazzleDazzleDisney!

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