‘Little Mermaid’ Swimming Against Strong Tides At Overseas Box Office, Leaving Break-Even In Question

In a rare situation for a Disney tentpole, particularly a live-action title based on a treasured classic animated musical, The Little Mermaid looks to bank more at the domestic box office ultimately than overseas, with $300M-$350M U.S./Canada to $260M abroad.

At that level, per finance sources, off a reported $250M production cost and $140M global marketing spend, The Little Mermaid could very well break-even. However, anything in the low $400M global threshold and this fish is apt to be sinking to a loss of around $20M.

Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny

“Not a huge disappointment, but a disappointment, nonetheless,” one film finance insider told Deadline, given the blockbuster streak often associated with Disney. The studio’s summer slate remains in a precarious position after it boldly world premiered two major titles in Cannes to lackluster reviews: Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (49% Rotten Tomatoes) and Pixar’s Elemental (58% Rotten, $40M projected U.S. opening).


Little Mermaid‘s ebb tide at the box office is extreme when juxtaposed against the high water mark seen from the last Memorial Day Disney live action feature adaptation of a toon, Aladdin, back in 2019. That Will Smith pic cleared $1.05 billion worldwide, 66% of that gross generated abroad which also counted $53.4M from China. Little Mermaid‘s China ticket sales were non-existent with a $2.5M start. Given the quick burn of U.S. titles in the PRC, some believe that the Rob Marshall-directed musical may not even get to a double digit final gross there.

Should Little Mermaid break even, it would be a rare feat for a tentpole to do so on the back of its domestic box office. Typically a tentpole sees 60% of its global box office total (or more) coming from overseas. Typically Disney titles seeing 50/50 splits between domestic and international box office are movies such as 2018’s Christopher Robin and 2016’s Pete’s Dragon.

Again, the slowdown with Little Mermaid, despite a strong start stateside of $118.8M over the 4-day Memorial Day holiday (ahead of Aladdin‘s $116.8M) and a running total through yesterday of $130.2M, stems from the backlash the pic has received in certain offshore markets (i.e. Korea, China, France, Germany) over the casting of star Halle Bailey in the title role as well as review-bombing. Hopeful box office sources maintain that the pic’s opening in Japan, as well as buoyant results in Mexico ($8.5M), UK ($6.3M), Italy ($4.7M), Brazil ($4M) and Australia ($4M), will get The Little Mermaid to a final tally of $260M overseas.

In a break-even scenario off a $560M global box office (meaning a net profit of $71M before participations and residuals are accounted for), we’re told that Little Mermaid‘s global film revenues would amount to $547M against its combined production, global theatrical and home entertainment marketing expenses of $476M. The pic’s revenues broken down include $267M in global theatrical film rentals, $100M net in domestic pay/free TV and what Disney pays itself to put the movie on Disney+, $100M in U.S. home entertainment (DVD, digital), and $80M in international home entertainment and TV.

This weekend, Little Mermaid encounters competition from Sony Animation’s Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, which is expected to do $80M-$90M in U.S./Canada. However, that movie is largely a fanboy draw, and not expected to crimp Little Mermaid‘s fins. Hence, the second weekend hold for Little Mermaid looks to be around around $40M, -58%. Aladdin posted a second weekend of $44.9M, -53%, and ended its domestic run at $355.5M.


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