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Disney’s return to live-action takes of their animated vault in the fullest theatrical form happens this weekend with Rob Marshall’s The Little Mermaid which is eyeing a $180M worldwide start.
The majority of that number will be made stateside with $120M for the four-day Memorial Day weekend holiday, and around $100M over three days. At $120M, Little Mermaid would be the fifth highest opening in U.S./Canada for the Friday-Monday Memorial Day weekend holiday. Pic’s overseas launch in such major markets, save Japan on June 9, begins today in France, Italy, Korea, Brazil, Germany, the UK, Spain and China joining in subsequent days. For those keeping track, Cruella was the last live-action adaptation of a Disney animated pic (she was the villain in 101 Dalmatians), however, it went day and date over Memorial Day weekend 2021 when theaters were just reopening for the summer from Covid.
Last year, Paramount/Skydance’s Tom Cruise sequel, Top Gun: Maverick, notched the holiday’s best domestic opening ever with $160.5M. After that, Disney owns the second spot with 2007’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End with $153M including previews. Aladdin owns the top opening for a Disney live action feature take of one of its toons at the Memorial Day box office with $116.8M.
In a reverse of recent tentpole titles, Little Mermaid is expected to be more of a domestic play at the outset, with the hope that momentum continues to build. Disney has had its stars, including lead actress Halle Bailey, out on red carpets from Mexico City to Milan, Berlin, London and Sydney.
The initial overseas comps we’re looking at here include Disney live-action adaptations of toons Aladdin ($93M ex-China/$112 with), Maleficent 2 ($77M ex-China/$100M) and Cinderella ($51M/$74M) all at today’s rates and in like-for-likes. The reason for breaking out China in the above figures is two-fold: the market has been wonky of late (though showing some improvement with Disney/Marvel Studios’ Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Universal’s Fast X) and as presales are low there and traction afoot is soft at the moment for the May 26 debut.
Demos are, hands down, all girls, women and moms around the world. Few dude tagalongs here. While female driven films post pandemic have been up and down, here’s one squarely appealing to the masses. The trajectory for Little Mermaid given its female draw is expected to emulate that Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella which owned 70% female ticket buyers, as well as Black female demos. In regards to Maleficent, another late May weekend opening Disney title from 2014 ($69.4M), that pic was stronger with boys given its darker tone, however, women repped 60% for that Angelina Jolie title’s opening weekend.
How reviews stack up: Little Mermaid currently sits at 73% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes which is a tad higher than Beauty and the Beast (71%), below Cinderella (83% certified fresh) and way ahead of Aladdin (57% rotten).
Pre-sales in the states are currently running ahead of Aladdin ($117M for the 4-day; $97.5M for the 3-day) but about 30% behind both Beauty and the Beast ($175M for the 3-day) and The Lion King ($191.8M). There’s early access fan screenings today in about 500 theaters in PLF, Imax and RealD 3D with regular Thursday previews starting tomorrow at 3PM. Overall footprint for the weekend is 4,300 theaters (under the last Memorial Day Disney live-action toon take, 2019’s Aladdin which was in 4,476 theaters). Of that figure, there’s 400 Imax auditoriums, 900 PLF screens, 2,800 3D locations and 265 D-Box/4D motion screens.
There are two other wide entries that dare face off against Little Mermaid: Legendary’s The Machine via Sony/Screen Gems and Lionsgate’s Sebastian Maniscalco movie, About My Father.
About My Father, rated PG-13, stars 2x Oscar winner Robert De Niro as Maniscalco’s immigrant, crusty dad Salvo. Pic is launching in 2,400 locations for a $5M-$6M four-day start. Pic is based off Maniscalco’s stand-up act and follows how he met the parents of his upper crust fiancé with his dad in tow. Pic was directed by Laura Terruso and written by Austen Earl & Maniscalco. Producers are Andrew Miano, Paul Weitz Chris Weitz and Judi Marmel. No reviews yet on Rotten Tomatoes.
The Machine stars another stand-up comedian, Bert Kreischer, which will also do around $5M over the four-day holiday weekend. Thursday shows begin at 7PM in 2,000 locations before expanding on Friday to 2,300. Also no reviews registered yet on Rotten Tomatoes. Hmmm….
Kreischer rose to fame as a stand-up comedian known as The Machine, and in his signature set he recounts his true experience with Russian mobsters while on a booze-soaked college trip. Now, 23 years later, that trip has come back to haunt him as he and his estranged father (Mark Hamill) are kidnapped back to Russia by the mob to atone for something they say he did. Together, Bert and his father must retrace the steps of his younger self (Jimmy Tatro) in the midst of a war within a sociopathic crime family, all while attempting to find common ground in their often fraught relationship. Peter Atencio directs off a script by Kevin Biegel and Scotty Landes based on Kreischer’s act.
On Thursday at 6PM, Kreischer will perform an exclusive live pre-show event in Los Angeles at 6 pm PST, which will be simulcast across 1,100 theaters nationwide and will be followed by the first preview screening of the film.