Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” is poised to make a box office splash over Memorial Day weekend. The big-budget remake is projected to earn a mighty $100 million from 4,300 North American theaters in its first three days of release and $120 million to $125 million by Monday’s holiday.
Based on those estimates, it’ll be the fourth movie (and third from Disney) this year to clear the $100 million mark in its debut, following “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” ($146 million), “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” ($118 million) and “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” ($106 million).
Rob Marshall directed “The Little Mermaid,” which looks like it’ll be one of Disney’s more successful live-action adaptations. The studio has revisited classics like “The Lion King,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Aladdin,” — all of which cracked $1 billion globally — as well as the less commercially embraced “Mulan” and “Dumbo,” to varying degrees of box office glory.
By comparison, 2019’s “The Lion King” enjoyed a mammoth $191 million debut, 2019’s “Dumbo” opened to a tepid $45 million and 2019’s “Aladdin” collected $91 million to start. (Apparently, 2019 was a huge year for Disney remakes.) Meanwhile, the first of the studio’s live-action reimaginings in 2017’s “Beaty and the Beast” and 2016’s “Jungle Book,” launched with $174 million and $103 million, respectively.
“The Little Mermaid” had a budget close to $250 million, which grew because of unexpected COVID-related production delays and health and safety costs, so it will need to resonate across the globe to turn a profit. The movie lands day-and-date in nearly every key international market, where it’s expected to generate $80 million over the weekend.
“The Little Mermaid” will take the No. 1 spot on domestic box office charts from Universal’s action-adventure “Fast X,” which opened last weekend with an uninspired $67 million. Now in its sophomore outing, the 10th entry in the high-octane franchise is estimated to add $27 million to $30 million over the weekend. “Fast X” is faring far better at the global box office with $344 million, including $271 million internationally.
Universal hit a box office milestone this week as the first studio to cross $1 billion at the domestic box office in 2023. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” “M3GAN” and “Cocaine Bear” helped to surpass that benchmark.
Elsewhere at the box office, three comedies are opening and may be settling for scraps. Sony and Legendary’s R-rated “The Machine” is tracking to debut to a soft $5 million from 2,300 over the holiday weekend; Lionsgate’s “About My Father,” with Sebastian Maniscalco and Robert De Niro, is aiming for $5 million to $6 million from 2,400 locations. Meanwhile, A24’s “You Hurt My Feelings,” starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and directed by Nicole Holofcener, is targeting $1 million from 900 theaters over the four-day frame.
“The Little Mermaid,” a remake of Disney’s 1989 animated classic, tells the story of King Triton’s youngest daughter Ariel, who is fascinated with the world above. So she makes a deal with her evil aunt Ursula to transform into a human in exchange for her dulcet pipes. She has three days to make a prince named Eric fall in love with her or she’ll turn back into a mermaid and belong to Ursula forever.
In Variety’s review, chief film critic Peter Debruge praised the performances of Halle Bailey and Melissa McCarthy, who play Ariel and Ursula, saying that Marshall found “the right actors to reinvent its most iconic roles.”
“Between Bailey’s wide-eyed urchin and McCarthy’s over-the-top octo-hussy,” he wrote, “the movie comes alive in a way that gives young audiences something magical to identify with, and fresh mermaid dreams to aspire to.”