THE LITTLE MERMAID, from left: Halle Bailey as Ariel, Sebastian (voice: Daveed Diggs), 2023. © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures /Courtesy Everett Collection

‘The Little Mermaid’ Opens to $118 Million, But This Isn’t the Billion Dollar Blockbuster We’re Looking For

For the third time this month, an expensive franchise sequel has been doing decent, unspectacular business. “The Little Mermaid” (Disney) is expected to gross about $95.5 million for three days, about $118 million for four days. The first three films raked in nearly $23 million of the total $162 million holiday weekend gross, down $15 million from last year.

In this summer season of expensive and family movies, the pressure will mount for something to exceed expectations. This was a weekend that, on paper, should have had a very good shot at beating 2022. While no one expected “Mermaid” to top the $126 million opening of “Top Gun: Maverick,” this weekend week also had the backing of another major franchise in its second week with “Fast X” (Universal). Last year the No. The number 2 film was “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness” which grossed $16 million. “Fast X” grossed $23 million.

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(LR): Halle Bailey as Ariel, Sebastian (voiced by Daveed Diggs), and Scuttle (voiced by Awkwafina) in Disney's live-action THE LITTLE MERMAID.  Photo courtesy of Disney.  © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

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Perhaps more concerning is the comparison to Disney’s 2109 billion-dollar hits “Aladdin” and “The Lion King.” The initial results for “Mermaid” suggest a possible worldwide total of about $500 million. Prior to commercialization, its reported cost is approximately $250 million.

FAST X, (FAST & FURIOUS 10), 2023. ph: Giulia Parmigiani /© Universal Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection
“Fast X”©Universal/Courtesy of Everett Collection

“Fast X” was down 66% in its second weekend, similar to “F9” in 2021 (which, like this time, benefited from a second week off). At $500 million worldwide, it will at best match “F9’s” $726 million, a total presumably limited by Covid. With a budget of $340 million this time around, it falls short.

At this point last year, we saw the debut of summer releases grossing over $400 million domestic. Some upcoming titles still stand a chance, but there’s less time to see improvements.

Disney has a positive with “Guardians,” which dropped just under $20 million in its fourth weekend and is nearing $300 million; the likely final domestic gross is approximately $375 million. Worldwide it is expected to exceed 800 million dollars.

Beyond the top three, the findings suggested theaters cannot be saved by wider releases. Four new films entered the top 10, three of them in over 2,000 theatres. However, none grossed more than $5 million.

“The Machine” (Sony) grossed $4.9 million, followed by “About My Father” (Lionsgate) starring Robert De Niro at $4.25 million. “Kandahar” starring Gerard Butler (Open Road/Briarcliff) grossed $2.4 million. All three have the feel of routine titles arriving on PVOD after their third weekend, a trend that could hurt smaller films as audiences get used to the alternative. Likewise, how many parents suspect “The Little Mermaid” is coming to Disney+ anytime soon? (Reality is late summer.)

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“You hurt my feelings”Jeong Park / Movie A24

A24 opened Nicole Holofcener’s excellent review (82 points on Metacritic) Sundance premiered “You Hurt My Feelings” in 912 theaters, with an estimate of just under $1.4 million. The Julia Louis-Dreyfus comedy could see a total of $3.5 million. His latest theatrical release was “Enough Said” in 2013; starring Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, it grossed $18 million domestically in a platform release.

Year-to-date over 2022 is a 21% improvement, which would project to less than $9 million for the year. The four-week rolling comparison to 2019 comes in at 79%, which also translates to about the same number for the full year.

The new specialist titles coming out of Cannes can’t arrive soon enough (most won’t appear to drop though). With no new titles reported, and already-screened ones barely showing a beat, the door is wide open for A24’s “Past Lives” (the best reviews of any film so far this year) to find a good response next week.

Top 10

1. The Little Mermaid (Disney) NEW – Cinema Score: A; Metacritic: 59; Est. budget: 250 million dollars

$95,500,000 in 4,320 theaters; PTA (average per theater): $; Cumulative: $95,500,000

2. Fast X (Universal) Week 2; Last weekend #1

$23,020,000 (-66%) in 4,008 (+2) theaters; PTA: $5,631; Cumulative: $107,955,000

3. Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 3 (Disney) Week 4; Last weekend #2

$20,000,000 (-%) in 3,940 (-510) theaters; PTA: $; Cumulative: $299,400,000

4. The Super Mario Bros Movie (Universal) Week 8; Last Weekend #3; also on PVOD

$6,270,000 (-35%) in 3,148 (-392) theaters; PTA: $1,992; Cumulative: $558,882,000

5. The Machine (Sony) NEW – Metacritic: 38; Est. budget: 20 million dollars

$4,900,000 in 2,409 theaters; PTA: $2,034; Cumulative: $4,900,000

6. About my father (Lionsgate) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 37; Est. budget: 29 million dollars

$4,250,000 in 2,464 theaters; PTA: $1,725; Cumulative: $4,250,000

7. Candadar (Open Road/Briarcliff) NEW – Cinemascore: B+; Metacritic: 52

$2,410,000 in 2,105 theaters; PTA: $1,145; Cumulative: $2,410,000

8. You hurt my feelings (A24) NEW – Metacritic: 82

$1,389,000 in 912 theaters; PTA: $1,523; Cumulative: $1,389,000

9. Rise of the Evil Dead (Warner Bros. Discovery) Week 6; Last weekend #5; also on PVOD

$1,052,000 (-57%) in 921 (-1,252) theaters; PTA: $1,142; Cumulative: $66,200,000

10. Book Club: The Next Chapter (Focus) Week 2; Last weekend #4

$920,000 (-69%) in 1,312 (-2,174) theaters; PTA: $687; Cumulative: $16,132,000

Other specialized titles

Movies (limited, limited movie expansions, and award-oriented) are listed by week out, starting with those open this week; after the first two weeks, only films with grossing over $5,000 are listed.

Master Gardener (Magnolia) Week 2

$94,300 in 156 (-44) theaters; PTA: $605; Cumulative: $500,892

sanctuary (Neon) Week 2

$40,638 in 10 theaters; PTA: $4,064; Cumulative: $138,877

blue raspberry (IFC/Elevation) Week 2

$ (estimate) 200,000 in 197 (-398) theaters; Cumulative: $1,285,000

monica (IFC) Week 3

$11,000 in 53 (-39) theaters; Cumulative: $124,500

The starling girl (Bleecker Street) Week 3

$31,459 in 114 (+73) theaters; Cumulative: $111,842

It’s not over (Sony Pictures Classics) Week 3

$31,488 in 57 (-71) theaters; Cumulative: $332,363

Knight (Searchlight) Week 6

$22,000 in 85 (-5) theaters; Cumulative: $3,420,000

Somewhere in Queens (Roadside attractions) Week 6

$17,520 in 32 (-14) theaters; Cumulative: $1,705,000