Thirty-five years after captivating audiences with the animated tale of Ariel, the flame-haired siren of the sea, "The Little Mermaid" returns to the big screen in a live-action remake that dominated the Memorial Day weekend box office.
The Disney release is set to make a massive splash, projected to debut with an impressive $118 million over the four-day holiday period, with $96 million of that coming in over the three-day frame. This achievement cements its place as the fifth-highest Memorial Day opening in history.
The film drew in fans from multiple generations, including those who fell in love with Ariel during her original animated adventure in 1988, as well as younger audiences who have grown up watching the movie through various mediums such as DVDs, television, and streaming services.
"'The Little Mermaid' is a classic," said Tony Chambers, Disney's head of distribution. "For many people of my age, along with 'Beauty and the Beast,' it holds a special place as their favorite animated movie. It transports them back to their childhood, and this live-action remake provides the perfect opportunity for them to pass on that love to the next generation."
Directed by Rob Marshall, the live-action "Little Mermaid" showcases Halle Bailey in the titular role of Ariel, with Melissa McCarthy portraying the malevolent sea witch Ursula. The film boasts an ensemble cast that includes Javier Bardem, Awkwafina, Jacob Tremblay, and Daveed Diggs. The breathtaking visuals of Ariel's underwater world required a massive amount of CGI, truly bringing the ocean home to life. The production of "The Little Mermaid" came with a hefty price tag of $250 million, making its global success vital for financial success. Internationally, the film has already grossed an impressive $68.3 million from 51 markets.
Breaking down the domestic audience demographics, 68% of moviegoers were female, while 25% fell into the 25 to 34 age range. Children accounted for 22% of the opening weekend crowds, showcasing the film's broad appeal across different demographics.
Disney's strategy of transforming beloved animated classics into live-action adaptations has proven successful, with hits like "Aladdin," "Beauty and the Beast," and "The Lion King" capturing the hearts of audiences worldwide. With the overwhelming success of "The Little Mermaid," it's clear that Disney will continue to tap into its vast library of animated properties for future live-action reboots.
While "The Little Mermaid" made waves at the box office, other films had mixed results. "Fast X," the tenth installment in the "Fast and Furious" franchise, saw diminishing returns domestically, with an estimated $23 million in its second weekend. However, it remains a global hit, expected to surpass $500 million in worldwide earnings, solidifying its position as one of the year's highest-grossing films.
Disney's "Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3" secured third place with $20 million, bringing its domestic total to an impressive $300 million. Meanwhile, "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" from Universal and Illumination continued its successful run, adding $6.3 million to its already impressive domestic earnings of $560.9 million.
Not every film fared as well. Sony and Legendary's action comedy "The Machine," the Lionsgate release "About My Father," and Gerard Butler's "Kandahar" from Open Road and Briarcliff struggled to find an audience, earning lackluster figures at the box office.
As "The Little Mermaid" continues to make waves and enchant audiences, it is clear that the combination of nostalgia and fresh storytelling has struck a chord. With its extraordinary debut, Disney's live-action reimaginations are poised to continue captivating viewers, reminding them of cherished memories while introducing beloved tales to a new generation.