Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” took in about $24 million at the weekend box office, a comatose result for a movie that cost at least $200 million to make and market.
The comedic horror movie received poor reviews. Competition was also fierce: “Barbie” (Warner Bros.) collected an astounding $93 million in its second weekend, easily claiming first place, while “Oppenheimer” (Universal) racked up about $46.2 million.
“Barbie” has now collected more than $750 million worldwide, according to Comscore, which compiles box office data. “Oppenheimer” has delivered roughly $400 million in global ticket sales.
But “Haunted Mansion” also had the unfortunate distinction of becoming the first big-budget movie to get sideswiped by the Hollywood actors’ strike, which is now in its third week. Until the strike is resolved — no talks are scheduled — the actors’ union has barred its members from engaging in any publicity efforts for completed films and TV shows. No red carpet appearances, no social media posts, no interviews on morning news shows and no participation in newspaper or magazine articles.
Promotional campaigns for “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” were largely complete by the time the actors walked out on July 13. In contrast, the buzz machine for “Haunted Mansion” had been scheduled to start on July 15, with stars from the movie — Tiffany Haddish, Jamie Lee Curtis, Owen Wilson, LaKeith Stanfield, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Jared Leto — giving interviews and walking a red carpet at the premiere. Such events can generate tens of millions of mentions on social media.
A dozen appearances by “Haunted Mansion” cast members on TV shows like “Good Morning America” had to be canceled. Planned promotional appearances in London, Toronto, Atlanta, Miami and San Diego were also called off, leaving the movie’s director, Justin Simien, (“Dear White People”) to proselytize alone. But many of the resulting headlines were about the strike and not the movie.
“Not having the cast available definitely had an impact, especially with ‘Barbie’ and ‘Oppenheimer’ attracting so much attention — they’re just behemoths,” Tony Chambers, Disney’s executive vice president of theatrical distribution, said in a telephone interview on Sunday.
Ticket buyers had a positive reaction to the film (85 percent positive, as recorded by Rotten Tomatoes), Mr. Chambers noted, adding that “Haunted Mansion” could still find its footing. Few family films are scheduled for release during the remainder of the summer school holiday. “We’ve got a relatively clear runway for the next four weeks,” he said.
“Haunted Mansion” collected an additional $9 million in partial release overseas.
Disney is Hollywood’s largest movie company. Its holdings include Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, Walt Disney Animation, Searchlight, 20th Century Pictures and a division that brings classic Disney content — “intellectual property” — to big screens in new ways. “Haunted Mansion” came from that assembly line. The movie is based on a 54-year-old Disneyland ride.
Disney dominated the box office from 2016 to early 2020, serving up 16 blockbusters that collected $1 billion or more worldwide. This year, however, the company has delivered one misfire after another, including “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania,” “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” and “The Little Mermaid,” which did well in the United States and Canada but struggled overseas. The animated “Elemental” started poorly but has made up ground.
The only exception to Disney’s 2023 box office troubles was “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which collected $845 million worldwide.
“Iger needs to once again fix the creative engines of the company starting with Pixar and then moving over to Marvel and Lucasfilm,” Michael Nathanson, a veteran media analyst, said in a July 13 report, referring to Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive.
Mr. Iger has disagreed with the notion that Disney’s movie operation is in disrepair. In an interview on CNBC this month, he said that Disney had stretched its film divisions too thin by commanding them to make so much additional content for Disney+. He noted that those production demands had since been softened.
“We ended up taxing our people way beyond in terms of their time and their focus,” he said.
Brooks Barnes is a media and entertainment reporter, covering all things Hollywood. He joined The Times in 2007 as a business reporter focused primarily on the Walt Disney Company. He previously worked for The Wall Street Journal. More about Brooks Barnes
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