Will ‘The Little Mermaid’ Have Legs or Flounder?

Ariel Little Mermaid
Credit: Disney

For months, The Little Mermaid (2023) has been discussed, debated, and analyzed by Disney fans and movie buffs. It has also seen a fair share of controversy and pushback regarding casting choices, quality of the computer animation, and changes to the original film’s songs by Lin Manuel Miranda. Disney’s new live action remake stars Halle Bailey as Ariel, Melissa McCarthy as Ursula, Javier Bardem as King Triton, and Jonah Hauer King as Prince Eric.

Halle Bailey as The Little Mermaid

Credit: Disney

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Opening Weekend Numbers

It “splashed” into theaters this past week, earning $118 million during the Memorial Day weekend. This is slightly higher than what the live action remake Aladdin (2019) pulled in a few years ago during the same holiday weekend. Although The Little Mermaid (2023) did well by most box office metrics, there’s a slight problem. The movie cost $250 million to make and perhaps another $250 to market (although some estimates have been higher).

RELATED: ‘The Little Mermaid’ May Be a Box Office Bomb

Put simply, the movie has to make at least $500 million just to break even. And that may not be a likely scenario due to its poor performance in China. Although the movie maintains a decent score on Rotten Tomatoes and wasn’t a box office flop as some anti-Disney fans were hoping, it may still struggle to turn any profit.

The Little Mermaid

Credit: Disney

RELATED: New Song in ‘The Little Mermaid’ Divides the Internet

Disney’s Problem

This is a problem that Disney has been facing with many of its productions. A similar case was with the movie Lightyear (2022). The film cost Disney about $200 million to make and another $200 million to market, although it only pulled in $226 million. Meanwhile films like Minions: The Rise of Gru (2022) had a budget of $80 million and The Super Mario Brothers Movie (2023) had a budget of $100 million.


Credit: Disney

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The reason that Disney is losing money at the box office may have less to do with the quality of the movies they make, or even the amount of money they earn. If their films are costing two or three times as much to produce, that makes it a bigger hill to climb each and every time. This trend within Walt Disney Studios may also cause Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (2023) to fail as well. The budget for the fifth Indiana Jones movie is almost $300 million. That is more than any other Indiana Jones or Star Wars film has cost to make, making Indiana Jones 5 the #8 most expensive movie of all time.


Credit: LucasFilm

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The Little Mermaid (2023) doesn’t have a budget as bloated, but every dollar that’s spent to produce, animate, and advertise eats away at potential profits.

So will the new live action film sink or swim? It’s hard to say. But in order for it to be worth all the time, effort, marketing, and controversies, it may need to pull in close to $1 trillion, which Disney has not done since before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Little Mermaid Posters

Credit: Disney

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…)