Is ‘The Little Mermaid’ making waves or sinking at the box office?
The answer depends on how you examine the context surrounding it. At first glance, Disney’s live-action adaptation of the beloved 1989 animated film surpassing the $400 million milestone worldwide is cause for celebration.
However, when you realize that more than half of that revenue comes from domestic theaters, the achievement loses some of its luster. Additionally, considering the reported production cost of $250 million (excluding marketing expenses), that $400 million figure doesn’t seem quite as remarkable.
The general rule of thumb is that a film of this magnitude needs to earn double its budget in theaters to break even. This means that even after two full weeks since its release, ‘The Little Mermaid’ is still operating in the red. Its current trajectory indicates a global final gross of around $500 million, barely placing it in a profitable position. Over the weekend, the movie added an estimated $22 million from domestic theaters, bringing its total domestic earnings to $228 million. It has garnered approximately $185 million from international territories thus far, resulting in a cumulative worldwide collection of $413 million, as reported by Variety.
Since its premiere last month, the film has received mixed reviews and currently holds a “fresh” score of 68% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. However, opening day audiences awarded it a solid A CinemaScore. Collider’s Ross Bonaime even praised the film, stating that it manages to capture the magic of the original, which is a rarity among live-action remakes. While newcomer Halle Bailey’s performance has been universally praised by audiences, fans of the animated classic have voiced their concerns about the changes made by veteran Disney director Rob Marshall in the remake.
In its domestic debut, ‘The Little Mermaid’ grossed a promising $117 million, which mirrored the opening weekend earnings of ‘Aladdin’ in 2019, both released during the extended Memorial Day weekend. However, ‘Aladdin’ went on to accumulate over $350 million domestically and more than $1 billion worldwide. While it’s impossible to match those global figures, each passing day suggests that ‘The Little Mermaid’ may struggle to surpass ‘Aladdin,’ even in the domestic market.
With a worldwide collection of $413 million, ‘The Little Mermaid’ currently outperforms other Disney live-action remakes (and their sequels) such as ‘Dumbo’ ($353 million), ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’ ($299 million), ‘Cruella’ ($229 million), and ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ ($215 million). Its next target is to surpass the lifetime global earnings of ‘Maleficent: Mistress of Evil’ ($491 million), but it seems unlikely to reach the heights of ‘Cinderella’ ($543 million). In fact, there is a vast ocean separating it from the highest-grossing Disney live-action remakes, including ‘Aladdin,’ ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ and ‘The Lion King,’ all of which crossed the $1 billion mark worldwide.
In addition to Halle Bailey, ‘The Little Mermaid’ features a star-studded cast including Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Jonah Hauer-King, Noma Dumezweni, Daveed Diggs, Javier Bardem, Awkwafina, Jacob Tremblay, and Art Malik. Check out our interview with director Rob Marshall, and stay tuned to Collider for more updates on this enchanting film.