Disney’s live-action adaptation of the iconic animated film, The Little Mermaid, made a significant splash at the box office. With an estimated four-day domestic debut of $118 million, it is the fifth-biggest Memorial Day weekend opening of all time. Directed by Rob Marshall, the film stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, the spirited young mermaid who makes a dangerous deal with the evil sea witch Ursula, played by Melissa McCarthy, to experience life on land and meet the dashing Prince Eric, portrayed by Jonah Hauer-King. The original tale was written by Hans Christian Andersen in 1836 and first published by C.A. Reitzel in Copenhagen on 7 April 1837 in Fairy Tales Told for Children. The various movie adaptations are far removed from the tragic ending of the book and have endorsed a happy ending.
The Little Mermaid | Official Trailer
Box Office Performance
The film’s three-day gross was an estimated 125 million over the long holiday weekend, but domestic estimates shifted. Despite this, the film’s domestic performance has been largely impressive, with a promising A CinemaScore.
Internationally, The Little Mermaid started off with a disappointing 185.8 million through Monday. The film notably struggled in China, opening to just $2.5 million. Box office pundits suggest that the social media campaign protesting a Black actress being cast as Ariel could affect its performance in Asian markets and elsewhere.
The Little Mermaid has attracted a predominantly female audience, with women making up 68% of ticket buyers. It has also drawn an ethnically diverse audience, with 35% of ticket buyers identifying as Black, followed by White (33%), Latinos (23%), and Asian/Other (9%). Black moviegoers over-indexed, while White moviegoers under-indexed.
Halle Bailey’s casting as Ariel sparked a racist backlash from social media commenters who protested the choice of a Black actress in the title role. However, her performance has received praise from critics. Disney insiders do not expect these protestations to hurt the film in North America, but they acknowledge the backlash could impact the film’s performance in specific markets overseas.
The Little Mermaid’s cast includes Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, Javier Bardem, Jacob Tremblay, Noma Dumezweni, and Art Malik. Their performances have contributed to the film’s overall success and appeal to many audiences.
Memorial Day Weekend Rankings
Last year’s Top Gun: Maverick scored the biggest Memorial Day opening of all time with
153 million), 2008’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (
122.9 million). The Little Mermaid is vying for fifth place, hoping to surpass the earnings of 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand.
Other Box Office Competitors
The Little Mermaid faced competition from several other films during its opening weekend. Universal’s Fast X secured the No. 2 spot, crossing the $500 million mark at the global box office in its first 12 days of release. Disney and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 took the No. 3 spot. At the same time, Universal and Illumination’s The Super Mario Bros. Movie placed No. 4. Other films opening nationwide included Legendary and Screen Gems’ action-comedy The Machine and Robert De Niro comedy About My Father.
The Little Mermaid has garnered positive reviews from critics, who have praised the cast’s performances, particularly Halle Bailey as Ariel. The film’s success can be attributed to its engaging storyline, stunning visuals, and memorable music, which have all contributed to its strong box office performance.
Legacy of The Little Mermaid
The original 1989 animated film holds a special place in the hearts of many Disney fans. Its success helped to usher in the Disney Renaissance, a period of renewed creative energy and commercial success for the company’s animated films. The live-action adaptation aims to recapture that magic, introducing the beloved story to a new generation of fans and appealing to those who grew up with the original.
The Little Mermaid has made an impressive showing at the box office, with strong domestic earnings and a diverse audience. Despite facing some challenges in international markets, the film has managed to captivate audiences worldwide with its engaging story, talented cast, and stunning visuals. As the first 2023 summer tentpole targeting females, The Little Mermaid demonstrates the continued demand for diverse and inclusive storytelling in the film industry.
Featured Image: Halle Bailey as Ariel in Disney’s live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID. Photo courtesy of Disney. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.