“Haunted Mansion” director Justin Simien is still haunted by the fact that the Disney release plan for his film did not address being in the shadow of “Barbenheimer.”

Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” premiered in theaters July 28, one week after the shared release date of “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer.” Both films were met with massive success; “Barbie” especially made history at Warner Bros. as a $1 billion blockbuster helmed by Greta Gerwig. Family-friendly film “Haunted Mansion” grossed $115 million at the global box office comparatively.

“I think the release date was really tough — I saw ‘Barbie’ coming from miles away,” Simien told The Wrap. “I was disappointed by some aspects of our release, but I was not really surprised.”

He continued, “There’s a lot of folks in the industry that just kept saying, ‘I don’t know’ and ‘That’ll probably not be as big as it sounds like.’ And I was like, ‘[“Barbie”] is going to be huge.’ What ‘Oppenheimer’ did so well — the marketing for ‘Oppenheimer’ embraced the fact that ‘Barbie’ was coming with 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.”

Thus far, auteurs like Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson have deemed “Barbenheimer” a “healing moment” for cinema.

On top of “Barbenheimer,” the SAG-AFTRA strike was authorized on July 14, barring the “Haunted Mansion” cast consisting of Tiffany Haddish, Jared Leto, and LaKeith Stanfield from promoting the film.

“There was a lot of stuff going on with the strike…a lot of stuff that had nothing to do with the movie that I think really got in the way, and that was frustrating to see because I came up in publicity,” Simien said. “If you had asked me and sat down with me…I would have seen some of these things coming. I’ll put it that way.”

And according to Simien, audiences and critics believed that a spooky film like “Haunted Mansion” would be better suited for a Halloween release instead of a summer date.

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

The “Dear White People” director added of the VOD release, “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. There’s nothing more intense happening, and in anyone’s minds when they’re processing a movie like ‘Haunted Mansion’ right now and for that, I’m grateful because when I’m making the film, of course, it’s all I’m thinking about. I’m not thinking about the politics of the company that has financed it, I’m not thinking about, you know, of course, you’re not thinking about a strike that may or may not happen when you’re doing it. So it’s nice to just sort of have people kind of focus on the movie, and find out what I already felt, which is that audiences were really enjoying it.”

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