Box Office: ‘The Little Mermaid’ to Swim to $120M Memorial Day Opening

The Little Mermaid is expected to swim to $120 million in its four-day domestic box office debut, making it one of the better Memorial Day weekend openings and marking the first 2023 summer tentpole targeting females.

Overseas, the movie is tracking for an $80 million opening through Sunday.

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Rob Marshall directs the live-action remake of Disney’s beloved animated film. The classic tale stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, the spirited young mermaid who makes a dangerous deal with the evil sea witch Ursula (Melissa McCarthy) in order to experience life on land and meet the dashing Prince Eric (Jonah Hauer-King). The pact, however, poses great risk to her father’s watery kingdom.

The cast also includes Daveed Diggs, Awkwafina, Javier Bardem, Jacob Tremblay, Noma Dumezweni and Art Malik.

Bailey’s performance as Ariel has drawn praise from critics amid a racist backlash from social media commenters protesting the casting of a Black actress in the title role. Disney insiders don’t expect these protestations to hurt the film in North America, but are waiting to see how the movie plays in certain overseas markets.

If indeed opening to $120 million, Little Mermaid would mark the fifth biggest domestic start for Memorial Day weekend, a ranking currently occupied by Disney’s live-action Aladdin, which opened to $116.8 million over the four-day holiday.

The Little Mermaid‘s four-day haul is expected to include a three-day gross of $100 million. Presales are pacing well ahead of Aladdin, but behind fellow live-action remakes Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King.

Interest is being driven by girls, moms and other females, similar to Beauty and the Beast, whose audience was 70 percent female.

The movie features a score from multiple Oscar winner Alan Menken, as well as new songs from Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Action-comedy The Machine and Robert De Niro comedy About My Father also open nationwide but aren’t expected to clear more than $5 million or $6 million in their domestic debuts.

The Machine, from Screen Gems, stars Bert Kreischer and is inspired by the comedian’s stand-up act of the same name. Mark Hamill co-stars.

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