Why’d it Bomb? The Haunted Mansion (2003)

Kevthewriter wants to know why Disney’s The Haunted Mansion couldn’t duplicate the success of Pirates of the Caribbean.

In the early 2000’s, Michael Eisner got a terrible idea, among his other terrible ideas: to make movies based off of Disney World/Disneyland Attractions! The first attempt, The Country Bears, was a critical and box office flop. But Pirates of the Caribbean was a huge success and a big phenomenon that spawned many sequels that are being produced to this day. Then came The Haunted Mansion. While it wasn’t a giant flop at the box office, it did bomb domestically and, overall, when you look at the numbers, Eisner and the rest of the people at Disney were probably disappointed by the overall BO gross. But, considering this movie was based on such a popular attraction, why didn’t it do better? Especially following Pirates?

3. Bad Release Date
As I pointed out in my Cat in the Hat article, this movie was released in late November which, honestly, is probably not the best release date for a Haunted Mansion movie. If Disney had been smarter about this, they should’ve released it in October or at least some date that wasn’t close to Christmas time. I mean, would there really be that big of a market for a Haunted House movie in late November or early December? Probably not!

2. Competition
As I also pointed out in that article, there were a LOT of kids/family movies coming out around then-Brother Bear, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, The Cat in the Hat, and Elf. It probably got lost in the sea of other family movies, as families had a lot of choices during that time.

1. The Plot
As the previews made it clear, it was less of a creepy/scary movie then a family comedy starring Eddie Murphy that was set in a haunted mansion. This probably pissed off a lot of fans of the ride who wanted a creepier movie and, as a result, they stayed away.

Weirdly enough, Disney is releasing another horror-themed film, Coco, during Thanksgiving time. But, being a Pixar film, that already gives it an advantage to at least make more than this movie. Plus its only real competition for the family market is Wonder and The Star (which probably won’t do well). But will it do well critically or will it be another Good Dinosaur? Only time will tell. All we know is it probably won’t be another Haunted Mansion.


Posted on October 18, 2017, in Why'd it bomb? and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. Eddie Murphy had a pretty toxic reputation at the time, and it had happened pretty quickly. His recent hits had really been seen as somebody else’s movie since The Nutty Professor, which was a hit, but wasn’t exactly widely loved. Bowfinger was really a Steve Martin movie and Shrek was voice over work and really a Mike Meyers movie. Look at the kinds of movies the once edgy and hilarious Murphy was doing: Metro, Holy Man, Life, Showtime, The Adventures of Pluto Nash, I Spy, and Daddy Day Care. Lots of them were flops and none of them had strong word of mouth.

    It’s tempting to say that The Haunted Mansion also had poor word of mouth, because I’ve heard almost nobody say they like the movie, but it actually was number one at the box office in its second week of release. You wouldn’t think that would happen based on practically everything I’ve heard about the movie.

    Let me pile on as far as bad word of mouth goes – – I’m a HUGE fan of the Disney attraction this movie is based on and I found most of the thing pretty cringe-inducing. When you’ve made a comedy that has NO funny lines…you have truly failed. It was like they thought the brand and Murphy’s mugging would put the movie over. Let this be a lesson: Script is king. No matter how much studio heads don’t want it to be. No matter how much most audiences don’t realize it. Nothing is more likely to bear on the long term affection for a movie than if the script is good. That’s why actual good directors care about it.


    • I’m going to piggyback on your comment. Yes, to everything you said about Murphy. By that point, he had cashed a few checks on marginal family fare and audiences were starting to get wise to the fact that his involvement was a guarantee of mediocrity. The Haunted Mansion came out the same year as Daddy Day Care and it was all downhill from there.

      According to Box Office Mojo, THM opened in second place at the box office. It landed behind The Cat in the Hat which was in its second week of release. Considering that movie was also a flop, coming in second is really disappointing. In its second week, THM dropped a whopping 61% and landed in third place behind The Last Samurai and Honey. I think it’s safe top say bad word of mouth was a factor.
      Disney’s only solace was that The Cat in the Hat dropped 70%. Box Office Mojo says THM never hit the number one spot.

      What I wanted to talk about was Disney’s massive marketing push. From what I hear, the Happy Meal toys were better than the movie they were promoting. This was basically Disney’s Scooby Doo which was also heavily promoted. I think a lot of parents saw the similarities and decided not to get fooled again. Same reason Scooby 2 bombed.


      • The box office numbers you’re reporting are based on the weekend rather than the whole week, which was what I was looking at. It’s interesting how the two diverge.

        Of course what is most important in the end is the fact that the movie cost about $15 million more than what it made domestically.

        Murphy is a pretty frustrating case, because he is clearly very talented, but at some point he definitely started cashing checks on his name. That can only last so long. All you have to do to get a pretty strong understanding of this is to see his wonderful work in Dreamgirls followed up by the utter trash of Norbit. Murphy still enjoys a certain level of goodwill from audiences because he did make some really entertaining movies and his personal charisma has had something to do with that. Unfortunately for him, his reliance on that goodwill has made many potential audience members skeptical when they see his name featured prominently in marketing for a film.


        • That makes sense regarding the b.o. figures. During its first weekend, it lost out narrowly to TCitH. Over the course of the next week, both plummeted but TCitH fell faster. The two new movies had better opening weekends than THM, but didn’t have the advantage of being open through the week, so THM took the top spot for the week without ever claiming a weekend.


      • All true. In the case of Scooby 2, part of the reason for why it bombed was that the primary audience for the first one had been nostalgic fans of the old cartoon. The first one at least had some curiosity value for them. But when it turned out to be not particularly good, most of them passed on the sequel and so the attempt to create a new franchise out of Scooby Doo ended.


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