May 29, 2023 - Economy

"The Little Mermaid" makes a splash at Memorial Day weekend box office

Image: Disney

Disney's live action remake of "The Little Mermaid" brought in $117.5 million domestically over the four-day weekend, representing the fifth-highest Memorial Day weekend opening all-time, according to Comscore.

Why it matters: While the film didn't have the same blockbuster opening that "Top Gun: Maverick" saw during the same time frame last year, it did signal healthy momentum at the box office ahead of a jam-packed summer.

  • "'The Little Mermaid' powered a solid Memorial weekend frame that had multiplexes buzzing with activity over the holiday weekend and thus exposing patrons to trailers and in-theater marketing for the upcoming killer movie slate on tap through August," Comscore senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian told Axios

Details: The movie's debut fell in line with expectations. For the three-day weekend, The Little Mermaid earned $95.5 million domestically, which is roughly the same amount Disney's live-action remake of Aladdin earned when it debuted over Memorial Day weekend in 2019.

  • The film, which cost $250 million to produce, has so far brought in $68.3 million internationally, bringing its worldwide gross to $185.8 million. However, the film struggled in China, bringing in just $2.5 million over the weekend.
  • The movie, which stars Black actress Halle Bailey as Ariel, was well-received by movie-goers, earning a 95% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, but critics have been less enthusiastic.

Be smart: Disney has a mixed track record when it comes to live action remakes of its animated classics.

  • Remakes for "The Lion King" (2019), "Beauty and the Beast" (2017) and "Aladdin" (2019) went on to gross over $1.6 billion, $1.2 billion and $1 billion, respectively. While live-action sequels of "Christopher Robin" (2018) and "Dumbo" (2019), were far less commercially successful.
  • Overall, The Little Mermaid movie ranks fifth amongst Disney’s other live-action remakes in terms of its domestic debut.

The big picture: The box office continues to lag pre-pandemic sales by nearly 25%. But Dergarabedian says a stronger slew of late-summer hits could help the theater industry make up for some of that lag.

Data: Box Office Mojo; Chart: Axios Visuals

By the numbers: As of now, there are 42 wide release films set to be released this summer compared to 22 last summer, per Dergarabedian. To hit the $4 billion mark, the box office needs to generate $560 million more this summer than it did last year, he estimates.

  • "I'm very bullish on the potential for the $4B mark to be achieved just like the good old days of the pre-pandemic movie marketplace given the strong slate and their consistency of release over the summer months to come," he said.

Yes, but: It's unlikely that the box office fully reverts to pre-pandemic levels of $11 billion+ in domestic grosses this year, even if the box office hits $4 billion by the end of the summer.

What to watch: Big summer blockbusters on the way include, "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse" (June 2); "Transformers: Rise of the Beasts" (June 9); "The Flash" (June 16); "Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning Part One" (July 12); "Barbie" (July), "Oppenheimer" (July), "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem" (August 4); "The Meg 2" (August 4) and "Blue Beetle" (August 18).

Flashback: "Top Gun: Maverick" breaks Memorial Day weekend box office record

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