‘The Little Mermaid’ Takes Memorial Day Weekend Box Office Crown With Splashy $117.5 Million Debut

Family audiences turned out in force, propelling Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” to the top of the box office over the Memorial Day weekend. The film, a live-action remake of the 1988 animated favorite, earned a splashy $117.5 million over the four-day holiday. It ranks as the fifth largest Memorial Day debut — last year’s “Top Gun: Maverick” set a new record for the holiday with its $160.5 million launch. At one point over the weekend, it looked as if “The Little Mermaid” might even open north of $120 million, but ticket sales flagged slightly.

For Disney, the film’s popularity is a testament to its strategy of digging deep into its vaults and rebooting animated titles as live action movies, something it has done successfully with the likes of “Aladdin,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King.” Still on tap: Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the Oscar-winning director of “Summer of Soul,” is helming a remake of “The Aristocats” for Disney.

But “The Little Mermaid,” which carries a production budget of $250 million will need to keep appealing to crowds, particularly in international markets where the animated original isn’t as beloved, if it wants to turn a profit. So far, the film has earned an underwhelming $68.1 million from more than 51 markets, including such major territories as France, the U.K., Mexico, Australia, Brazil and South Korea.

“The Little Mermaid” stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, the daughter of King Triton (Javier Bardem), ruler of an ocean kingdom, who becomes enamored of a prince (Jonah Hauer-King) above the surface. Her desire to be with him spurs her to make a pact with Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) to give up her soaring voice in return for assuming human form. Rob Marshall, the filmmaker behind musicals such as “Chicago” and “Into the Woods,” directed this music-heavy tale. Analysts believe that the film was helped by its PG rating and multi-generational appeal — people who saw the original as children are taking their own kids to the movie some three and a half decades later.

“It’s a perfect family film,” said Paul Dergarabedian, chief analyst at comScore. “The character of Ariel resonates as strongly today, if not stronger, than it did when the original animated film opened.”

More to come…

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