‘The Little Mermaid’ May Be a Box Office Bomb

Ariel Little Mermaid
Credit: Disney

There has been a lot of recent buzz over the upcoming Disney film The Little Mermaid (2023). The live action remake stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, the sea witch, Javier Bardem as King Triton, Daveed Diggs as Sebastian, and Jonah Hauer-King as Prince Eric.

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Not Looking Good in China

The Little Mermaid Halle Bailey

Credit: Disney

Mired in controversy for various reasons, including lyric changes by Lin Manuel Miranda, many are curious to see how the movie will perform. But if the initial numbers from China’s box office are any indicator, the answer may be…not well.

For some time, films produced by Walt Disney Studios were seemingly barred from release in China, that is, until former CEO Bob Iger returned to the company. For the past decade, many Hollywood studios have looked at the foreign box office as guaranteed money, with China being a big part of that calculation. Since 2020, China has largely ignored many Western movies in favor of ones produced in China or other Asian countries.

Halle Bailey as The Little Mermaid

Credit: Disney

It’s been hit or miss for American films released in China lately. Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 (2023) performed well in the country. However, other films, such as Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023), did not.

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Now The Little Mermaid (2023), directed by Rob Marshall, is also looking to disappoint at the Chinese box office. It seems that the film may only have $13,000 in pre-sales. That number could go up with people buying tickets at the theater. But for comparison, Mulan (2020) grossed $307,000 in a day of pre-sales and $23 million upon opening, while Cruella (2021) grossed $1.6 million upon opening.

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Will The Seaweed Be Greener Elsewhere?

Of course, the figures are fluid, and millions could flock to theaters this upcoming weekend to watch The Little Mermaid (2023). But if its box office numbers in China are subpar, Walt Disney Studios may have to hope that the film overperforms domestically and in other international markets to make up the difference. However, as a general rule, the Chinese box office is the largest global market.

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The movie debuts in the United States on May 26, 2023.

About Steven Wilk

Steven has a complicated relationship with Disney. As a child, he visited Walt Disney World every few years with his family. But he never understood why kids his age (and older) were so scared of Snow White or Alien Encounter. He is a former participant of the Disney College Program (left early…long story), and he also previously worked in Children’s publishing, where he adapted multiple Disney movies and TV shows. He has many controversial opinions about Disney…like having a positive view of Michael Eisner, believing Return of the Jedi is superior to The Empire Strikes Back, and that Toy Story Land and Galaxy’s Edge should have never been built (at least not at Hollywood Studios). Every year for the past two decades, Steven has visited either Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Aulani or went on a Disney Cruise. He’s happy to share any and all knowledge of the Disney destinations (and he likes using parenthesis a lot…as well as ellipses…)