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‘The Little Mermaid’ hits the box office with a $95.5 million opening


LOS ANGELES (AP) — “The Little Mermaid made moviegoers want to be under the sea over Memorial Day weekend.

Disney’s live-action remake of the 1989 animated classic easily outpaced the competition, grossing $95.5 million from 4,320 screens in North America, according to studio estimates on Sunday.

And Disney estimates that the movie starring Halle Bailey as the titular mermaid Ariel and Melissa McCarthy as her sea witch nemesis Ursula will hit $117.5 million by the time the holidays are over. It is the fifth-largest Memorial Day weekend opening ever.

It displaces “Fast X” in first place. The 10th installment in the ‘Fast and Furious’ franchise starring Vin Diesel has fallen short of more recent releases in the series, grossing $23 million domestically for a two-week total of $108 million for Universal Pictures.

In its fourth weekend, Disney and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 earned an estimated $20 million in North America to take third place. It has now made $299 million domestically.

The performance of “The Little Mermaid” represents something of a bounce-back for Disney’s animated-to-live-action remakes, and makes it likely that they’ll keep coming indefinitely. Poor reception and the pandemic had some recent reboots that underperformed or skipped theatrical releases for Disney+, including “Dumbo,” “Mulan,” and “Pinocchio.”

“It works as long as the movies perform,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. “It’s great for Disney to be able to go to their archive by reviving these titles that started out as big hits in the animation world.”

The public thought it paid off. The film had an A CinemaScore, and according to exit polls, there were more ticket buyers between the ages of 25 and 34 than children, suggesting adult nostalgia was essential.

“The multi-generational component of this cannot be overemphasized,” Dergarabedian said.

Critics were more lukewarm. The film is currently at 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. In her review, Lindsey Bahr of The Associated Press called it “a somewhat bland venture with sparks of bioluminescence” that, like too many of the Disney remakes, “prioritized nostalgia and familiarity over compelling visual storytelling.”

She said Bailey, one half of sister R&B duo Chloe x Halle, still shined with a “beautiful presence” and “excellent voice.”

Directed by Rob Marshall on a reported budget of $250 before marketing, “The Little Mermaid” tells the story of a yearning, wayward daughter who makes a diabolical deal to trade her fins for a pair of legs. It features Alan Menken and Howard Ashman’s songs, including “Part of Your World” and “Under the Sea,” which helped the original film spark a 1990s Disney animation renaissance.

Fourth place went to ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’ from Universal, which continues to reach new levels in its eighth weekend. Now available to rent on VOD, it still made $6.3 million in theaters. The cumulative total of $559 million makes Mario and Luigi the biggest earners of the year so far.

Comics couldn’t resist Ariel as the week’s other new releases sank.

“The Machine,” an action comedy starring stand-up comedian Bert Kreischer, finished fifth with $4.9 million domestically. And ‘About my father”, the wide-ranging comedy starring stand-up Sebastian Maniscalco and Robert De Niro, placed sixth with $4.3 million.

It is not clear whether “The Little Mermaid” will have legs or fins in the future. The animated movie “Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse” comes out next week and “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts” comes out the following week.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at theaters in the US and Canada, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released on Monday.

1. “The Little Mermaid”, $95.5 million.

2. “Fast X”, $23 million.

3. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” $20 million.

4. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie,” $6.3 million.

5. “The Machine”, $4.9 million.

6. “About My Dad”, $4.3 million.

7. “Kandahar,” $2.4 million.

8. “You hurt my feelings”, 1.4 million.

9. “Evil Dead Rise”, $1 million.

10. “Book Club, The Next Chapter,” $920,000.


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Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.