It’s no secret that Disney hasn’t been doing very well lately at the box office. Many of their 2023 films alone — from The Little Mermaid to Elemental to Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny — have underperformed theatrically. Of course, the studio still has plenty of planned 2023 releases left, and Haunted Mansion, releasing July 28, is their next big theatrical release.
Box Office Pro predicts a domestic total range of $73 to $131 million for Haunted Mansion, which isn’t even near the worldwide gross of the original film of the same title. While it made money, the 2003 movie was far from a gigantic hit, only making $182 million against a $90 million budget. The 2023 film has a budget of $157 million, which means it’ll have to make far more money than the original did in order to be considered a success.
If we’re to assume success based on nostalgic appeal alone, it’s near impossible to see the 2023 film doing well at all. The 2003 title was panned by both critics and audiences, suffering a 14% critic score and 31% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. The audience score should especially be considered, since over 100,000 members contributed to its score.
If we look at other sites, the 2003 movie has a 2.6 average on Letterboxd and a 5.1 average on IMDb, suggesting most people don’t remember the title fondly and therefore don’t have much (if any) nostalgia for it. Already, the odds are against this reboot, but it’s important to note The Haunted Mansion was something else before it was a movie.
Theme Park Movies
The Haunted Mansion is a theme park ride located at California’s Disneyland, Florida’s Magic Kingdom, and Tokyo Disneyland. The ride isn’t present in the Disneylands of Paris, Shanghai, and Hong Kong, meaning not everybody who’s been to a Disney park has had the opportunity to experience it. Considerably, they might not even recognize the film as an adaptation of a Disneyland attraction at all, putting into serious question how well this will do overseas.
While the Pirates of the Caribbean films did remarkably well, these films have been the only Disneyland adaptations to have any noteworthy success at the box office. Excluding the Pirates franchise, there have been six movies based on Disneyland attractions. One was a television film and four were box office disappointments, leaving The Haunted Mansion (2003) as the only non-Pirates entry to make more than twice its budget theatrically.
However, it’s important to note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jungle Cruise was released simultaneously in theaters and through Disney+’s Premier Access. Disney considered it successful enough that a sequel is currently in development, so the idea that films based on Disneyland rides are instantly doomed if they’re not a Pirates title isn’t entirely true, and Haunted Mansion (2023) may disprove it again.
Haunted Mansion is releasing one week after Barbie and Oppenheimer, and one week before Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem. Both Barbie and Oppenheimer are doing remarkably well at the box office, especially Barbie, a film that appeals to kids and has already grossed more than $350 million a week after its release.
That number’s only going to get bigger the more Barbie stays in theaters, and with all the buzz Barbie is currently getting, Haunted Mansion seemingly doesn’t stand a chance. Mutant Mayhem only makes matters worse, as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is an extremely popular franchise with kids and the 2014 TMNT film grossed nearly $500 million at the box office.
Both Barbie and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were already exceedingly recognizable and well-loved intellectual properties even before their 2023 films. The original Haunted Mansion film is far from well-loved and people who have never experienced the Disneyland attraction have no attachment to the ride, so releasing during an extremely crowded end of July may prove fatal for Haunted Mansion.
The 2020s have given audiences so many reboots, remakes, sequels, and prequels to properties that were released decades ago. Too many, in fact: in 2023 alone, we’ve seen new additions to franchises like Scream, Grease, Gremlins, and Indiana Jones. Not just that, but Willy Wonka’s getting a prequel, Beetlejuice a sequel, Chicken Run a sequel as well, Friday the 13th a new film, and even Alf has just been announced to be getting a reboot.
It’s too much, and Disney especially seems obsessed with rebooting and remaking every intellectual property they can think of. It’s a phenomenon that started long before the pandemic happened: Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland made more than a billion dollars at the box office, which led to Maleficent four years later, and ever since then, not a year goes by where at least one live-action remake or retelling of an animated Disney film doesn’t get released.
It’s not just the animated films, either: Pete’s Dragon got a remake, Hocus Pocus and Enchanted got a sequel, and now here’s the Haunted Mansion reboot, remake, or whatever Disney wants to call it. However, the failures of revivals like The Matrix Resurrections and Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies signify serious nostalgia fatigue is happening, fatigue that could greatly affect Haunted Mansion’s box office performance.
You could argue hints of this fatigue were already in place back in 2016 when Disney’s own Alice Through the Looking Glass failed massively at the box office, when it was the sequel to the film that started the studio’s remake craze.
The Disney+ Dilemma
Since the pandemic, Disney movies have been doing terribly at the box office. Their animated movies, especially, have been suffering. Encanto, Lightyear, Strange World, and most recently Elemental have all had diminishing returns at the box office, with Strange World especially losing the studio nearly $200 million, being Hollywood’s biggest box office bomb of 2022.
Of course, nobody would call Encanto a failure, as the title became extremely popular after its release on Disney+, which begs the question: Is Disney+’s existence contributing greatly to Disney’s box office troubles? After all, while The Little Mermaid and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania made back their budgets, they were still considered box office disappointments by the studio. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny is a straight-up box office bomb, only making $334 million when it needed to make at least $750 million before becoming profitable.
Since Disney titles will predictably release on their streaming service, audiences might much rather wait for them to release digitally rather than go see them in cinemas. Why pay the money for movie tickets, popcorn, and dinner afterward when there’s a guarantee the movie will release on a streaming service you already pay for?
Families, especially, will find it much more economically viable to wait for a film to come to streaming rather than seeing it on the big screen. With many of them still feeling the after-effects of the pandemic, seeing movies in cinemas just seems like a pointless way to spend money when they’re already paying monthly subscription fees to multiple streaming services.
How Will Haunted Mansion Do?
As cynical as it may sound, Haunted Mansion almost seems guaranteed to fail at the box office, or at least underperform. Still, while unlikely, the movie could also be the surprise hit Disney so desperately needs in 2023.
With an ensemble cast including LaKeith Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, and Jamie Lee Curtis, it isn’t a complete implausibility. This many box office flubs in such a short amount of time isn’t a good look for Disney, though, and Haunted Mansion disappointing financially (especially with its $157 million budget) will only make matters significantly worse.
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