The Little Mermaid opened this Memorial Day weekend. Pre-sales, being the tickets that people buy in advance, were looking strong. It looked like it would open to over 100 for the 3-day weekend, and 130 for the 4-day. Potentially the highest opening weekend for Memorial Day ever.
That didn't happen. While it had a strong opening day, it failed to keep up the pace for the rest of the weekend. Ultimately opening under 100 for the 3-day weekend. The expected casual audience, referred to as "walk-ups" didn't show up in the numbers that were expected (based on past live-action Disney films). Hollywood trades are seemingly ignoring this, most of them calling the opening weekend a success.
While the Domestic opening weekend is certainly not bad, it's worldwide opening weekend is terrible. Internationally the film opened behind Fast X's second weekend. It's acting closer to Dumbo, a big bomb for Disney in 2019, than any of the successful live-action Disney films. Domestically, also, the film is acting closer to Solo, another bomb, than Aladdin (which had amazing legs).
Why this happened is still being debated. Some say that having a black lead turned off a lot of the international audience, others say they were turned off from a lack of a big star in the film (like say Will Smith in Aladdin or Emma Watson in Beauty and the Beast). Whatever the case is for the international audience, it's clear that there was a total market rejection of the film. Domestically, it seems like casual audiences are experiencing a bit of fatigue with these live-action movies (perhaps due to all the bad ones going straight to Disney+).
And maybe, perhaps, Disney betting big on Disney+ in 2022 while the other studios started to refocus on theatrical, was a mistake. Maybe that's diluted the Disney brand in all forms.
But whatever it is, Disney now has two bombs on their hands. Ant-Man failed to make a profit and now Little Mermaid is unlikely to reach that as well (considering the huge 250 million dollar budget on it). And the rest of the year is not looking any better for them.
Disney went to Cannes with Indiana Jones and Elemental. Which we all assumed was a sign of confidence in the films. That ended backfiring as both Indiana and Elemental ended up rotten on RT. Now they have to deal with a negative reception for both films, on top of the fact that there was very little excitement for both to begin with. Pixar, and Disney animation as a whole, is now looking at back to back to back bombs (Lightyear, Strange World, and now Elemental). Indiana Jones had an inflated budget of 300 million and now looks like it won't break even either.
Haunted Mansion might surprise, but it's gonna be a tough ladder to climb considering the really big 150 million dollar budget.
The Marvels will need to be as well received as Guardians in order not to be Ant-Man'd out of existence, which most people are not expecting, especially as you need to watch two TV shows to understand it.
Wish could finally be a win for Disney's animation department, but considering the track record I wouldn't count on it.
It's really not looking good for Disney, what a fall considering the immense success they experienced in 2019. They really might just end up with one success this year (Guardians).