Disney’s live-action The Little Mermaid remake has a high budget with big box office expectations as the studio hopes to have its next big blockbuster smash. The star-studded cast of The Little Mermaid’s live-action remake tackles new songs, extended sequences, and the classic beloved tale of the mermaid princess Ariel, who makes a deal with the villainous Ursula to exchange her voice for legs in order to walk on land and fall for Prince Eric. The re-imagining of the beloved 1989 animated classic already has one of the best critical responses of any Disney live-action remake so far, with a 71% Rotten Tomatoes score ahead of release.


As is expected with the technological advancements, bigger scope of the stories, and star power, Disney’s many live-action remakes of animated classics have significantly higher budgets than the original movies. Of course, the big-budget live-action remakes have also yielded substantially higher box office returns, with several of Disney’s adaptations since 2010, such as Alice in Wonderland, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King, earning over $1 billion worldwide. While 2023’s The Little Mermaid won’t need to be Disney’s highest-grossing live-action remake to succeed at the box office, the movie requires a much bigger return than the animated original to recuperate the cost of its huge budget.

The Original Little Mermaid Movie’s Budget & Box Office Performance

Disney’s 1989 The Little Mermaid movie had a $40 million budget, which was still a relatively big cost for an animated film at that time. In comparison, contemporary Disney animated hits had significantly smaller budgets, such as The Fox and the Hound costing $12 million, Beauty and the Beast costing $25 million, and Aladdin costing $28 million. In fact, the closest animated classic to The Little Mermaid with a similar budget was 1985’s The Black Cauldron, which cost $44 million but bombed with a $21 million box office return.

Thankfully, Disney’s original The Little Mermaid justified its bigger budget to become one of the studio’s biggest animated box office successes at the time. The Little Mermaid movie has a lifetime box office gross of $211 million (via Box Office Mojo), which is less than half the accumulated total of 1991’s Beauty and the Beast or 1992’s Aladdin. Still, The Little Mermaid was a big success for Disney in its original run, and would eventually earn back over five times its original budget. Disney’s remake has a much taller order to fulfill at the box office, however, on account of its massive budget.

The Little Mermaid 2023’s Budget Is Estimated Around $200 Million

Custom image of Halle Bailey as Ariel and Ariel and Eric in a boat together in The Little Mermaid.

Disney has yet to release the official numbers for The Little Mermaid 2023’s budget, but the total cost is estimated to be approximately $200 million. This number would put the live-action remake’s budget around the same total box office accumulation of the original movie. Still, the higher cost makes sense when considering the CGI necessities. Most of Disney’s CGI-realism heavy live-action remakes came in at similar budgets, such as Aladdin costing $183 million, Beauty and the Beast having a $160 million production budget, and The Lion King reportedly racking up an estimated $260 million budget.

In reference to Disney’s theatrically-released live-action remakes, The Little Mermaid’s massive scale with substantial underwater CGI makes a budget of $200-250 million plausible. While The Little Mermaid’s high cost doesn’t make it the most expensive Disney live-action remake, its budget comes close to that of the highest-grossing Disney remake The Lion King, which made over $1.6 billion at the box office following its 2019 release. The Little Mermaid’s box office isn’t expected to reach such massive heights, but the 2023 movie will still doubtlessly earn enough to break even and become another financial success story for Disney.

The Little Mermaid Needs At Least $500 Million At The Box Office

Halle Bailey as Ariel looking out from behind a rock in The Little Mermaid

Based on the $200 million estimate of The Little Mermaid’s budget, the Disney movie needs to make at least $500 million at the box office in order to be a success. The general rule of thumb is for a movie to earn back at least 2.5 times its budget, so if The Little Mermaid’s box office comes in between $500-625 million, then Disney’s latest live-action remake will have been victorious. Still, the studio is most likely eyeing a number closer to $1 billion dollars at the box office before The Little Mermaid starts streaming on Disney Plus.

The Little Mermaid earning over $625 million at the box office before the end of its theatrical run is reasonable, given the movie’s long hype, holiday release date over Memorial Day weekend, and potential for long legs throughout the summer. Disney doesn’t have any other big-budget PG movies hitting theaters this summer, so The Little Mermaid will seemingly have a grasp on the younger audience in theaters until at least the beginning of fall. According to Deadline, The Little Mermaid is projected to earn around $110 million at the domestic box office over opening weekend, so if these numbers stay strong in the following weeks, the live-action remake should be able to sail toward a $1 billion total.

Source: Box Office Mojo

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