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‘Haunted Mansion’ director saw ‘Barbie’ ‘coming from miles away’

Haunted Mansion director saw Barbie ‘coming from miles away’: ‘The release date was really tough’

“This is a much better time to receive a movie like this,” Justin Simien said.

Published on October 16, 2023

Releasing a movie about a haunted house in the middle of summer was a choice, particularly since we’re now in the throes of Spooky Season.

But that’s what streaming is for, at least according to Disney, which released its star-studded, $150+ million Haunted Mansion in the middle of July, just as Barbenheimer fever had gripped the nation, nay — the world.

“I think the release date was really tough — I saw Barbie coming from miles away,” Haunted Mansion director Justin Simien reflected in a new interview with TheWrap, “I was disappointed by some aspects of our release, but I was not really surprised.”

‘Haunted Mansion’ and ‘Barbie’.
Disney;Warner Bros. Pictures

Compounding the film’s release, SAG-AFTRA went on strike two weeks before Haunted Mansion‘s release on July 28, while Barbie and Oppenheimer both premiered on July 21, a date that will live in box office infamy.

Simien tried to warn folks — that Barbie was “going to be huge” — and praised Oppenheimer‘s marketing team for hitching their WWII wagon to “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,” Simien added.

Based on the Disney theme park ride, Haunted Mansion starred Owen Wilson, Tiffany Haddish, LaKeith Stanfield, Jamie Lee Curtis, Rosario Dawson, and Danny DeVito and received mixed reviews from critics. The film opened to $24.1 million domestically, third behind Barbie and Oppenheimer and went on to gross $67.5 million ($114.7 million globally).

Aside from the stiff competition, there’s also the glaring fact that Haunted Mansion seems more like a movie for, say, now, than the end of July. A fact that’s not lost on Simien.

“I certainly have heard the feeling from a lot of folks, and I can’t say I disagree,” Simien said of the incongruous timing. “This is a much better time to receive a movie like this.”

He continued, “I think with the movie coming out now…I think everyone’s head is in the right space. It’s just Halloween. It’s the season you want to kick back with your family.”

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