‘The Little Mermaid’ Aims to Become the Latest Disney Remake to Gross Over $1 Billion

The Disney remakes, loathed by cinephiles and loved by movie theater owners, make their return this Memorial Day weekend with Rob Marshall’s live-action/CGI take on the 1989 classic “The Little Mermaid.” Like other remakes of Disney Renaissance films, it should be a huge box office hit and have a shot at $1 billion worldwide.

Current box office tracking has “The Little Mermaid” earning a four-day opening of $110-$120 million, placing it in the range of the $116 million four-day start of the remake of “Aladdin” released on Memorial Day weekend in 2019. Some rival distributors tell TheWrap they believe that the film could have an extended opening of over $125 million. Reception for the film has been generally positive — with particular praise for Halle Bailey as Ariel — as the film currently has a 73% Rotten Tomatoes score.

“Aladdin” went on to gross $355 million in North America and $1.05 billion worldwide four years ago, and that was immediately followed by the massive $543 million domestic and animation record $1.66 billion global total that Jon Favreau’s CGI remake of “The Lion King” earned just two months later despite tepid reviews.

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For “The Little Mermaid,” its box office ceiling is probably closer to “Aladdin” than “Lion King” given its opening weekend projections. China is expected to have extremely low turnout given the film’s abysmal presales in that country, but few Disney remakes made any considerable amount there compared to other pre-pandemic blokbusters.

“Aladdin,” for example, got about $53 million from China and reached $1 billion globally so whether “Little Mermaid” can do the same will depend on other key international markets like Japan ($112 million for “Aladdin”), South Korea ($91 million) and major European countries like U.K. and France. Projections for the overseas launch of “The Little Mermaid” are currently being kept below the $122 million 3-day start that “Aladdin” earned, as Universal’s “Fast X” is expected to be significant competition for international moviegoers.

Meanwhile, “The Little Mermaid” will have the advantage this weekend of being a fresh new film for families seven weekends after “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” took the box office by storm. That will change in holdover weekends with Sony’s release of “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse,” but “Little Mermaid” could still leg out alongside the animated Marvel film if Bailey’s performance captivates enough audiences to earn repeat viewings the way past Disney remakes have.

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The family-skewing core audience of this remake may also give “Fast X” a chance to hold decently during this holiday weekend, though that hold isn’t expected to be anywhere near as strong as what “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” earned earlier this month. Current projections have the film earning around $27 million for the three-day weekend and around $35-$38 million for four-day. Both “Fast X” and “Little Mermaid” will have premium format support.

But these two films will be largely carrying the load for the box office this weekend, as a pair of studio comedies aren’t expected to make a considerable amount. Sony’s “The Machine” starring Bert Kreischer and Mark Hamill and Lionsgate’s “About My Father” starring Sebastian Maniscalco and Robert De Niro are both projected for four-day openings of $5-$6 million.

Overall, it’s likely that this Memorial Day Weekend will see overall grosses take a slight drop compared to last year barring a significant overperformance from “Little Mermaid.” The box office recorded $223 million in total grosses during the holiday period last year, driven by the record $160 million four-day launch of “Top Gun: Maverick” as it became the summer’s highest grossing film.

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