This week’s Tales from the Box Office is all about “Pirates of the Caribbean,” the massive hit franchise based on a Disney parks attraction, and how Disney has been chasing the dragon of ride-based movies ever since. It makes sense from a cross-promotion perspective: a movie like “Haunted Mansion” can effectively function as a two-hour commercial for Disney’s parks. But while “Pirates of the Caribbean” was an expensive gamble that paid off, equally expensive flops like “Tomorrowland” ($190 million budget, $209 million global box office) and “Jungle Cruise” ($200 million budget, $220 million box office) have been an important lesson in the dangers of doubling down.
One of the first attempts to cash in on the success of “Pirates of the Caribbean” was also based on the Haunted Mansion IP. 2003’s “Haunted Mansion,” directed by Rob Minkoff and starring Eddie Murphy, grossed a disappointing $182 million against a production budget of $90 million — which is roughly equal to $150 million in 2023 dollars. The first “Haunted Mansion” movie had an opening weekend of $24.2 million, which would be around $40 million today, adjusting for inflation. So, while both efforts have similarly eye-watering budgets for a fun, silly-scary family film, Murphy’s “Haunted Mansion” is likely to end up being the more successful of the two.
There is room at the box office for goofy horror-fantasy films aimed at family audiences. After all, kids love Halloween. 2015’s “Goosebumps” and its 2018 sequel “Goosebumps 2: Slappy’s Revenge” were both modest hits thanks to their sensible mid-October release dates and equally sensible budgets ($58 million and $35 million, respectively). It’s unclear why exactly Disney decided that “Haunted Mansion” was summer blockbuster material, but already it’s looking like another gamble that hasn’t paid off.