New York (CNN) — Disney’s live-action movie “The Little Mermaid” brought in $117.5 million at the US box office in the fifth-best opening for Memorial Day weekend in history, according to Box Office Mojo.
The remake of the 1989 Disney animated classic stars Halle Bailey as Ariel. Bailey’s adaptation of the titular character was widely praised by critics, although the movie as a whole got a decidedly mixed reaction. On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, just 67% of critics gave the movie a favorable review.
Audiences were far more pleased with the film, with 95% giving it a thumbs up on Rotten Tomatoes. But IMDB, which also tracks audience reviews, said it had to adjust some of its ratings overseas after it found the movie was a victim of review-bombing.
“The Little Mermaid” remake has been the subject of controversy in right-wing media and on some social platforms — with users posting racist tropes — because Disney cast Ariel with a black actress. The trailer for the film made its debut earlier this year, setting off a debate about whether Ariel should be Black or White.
Rob Marshall, the film’s director, called critics’ complaints about casting a Black actor “small-minded,” in an interview with Vanity Fair. Many have argued that casting a Black actress in the role helps Black children feel represented in popular culture.
Disney first introduced a Black princess in 2009, with Tiana in “The Princess and the Frog.” But Disney has recast characters originally portrayed as White with actors of different races before, including its 1997 remake of “Cinderella” with Brandy, a Black actress.
Despite the controversy, the movie was among the most successful films ever to debut on Memorial Day, Box Office Mojo reported. Last year’s “Top Gun Maverick” tops that list with $160 million at the US box office over the long holiday weekend. “The Little Mermaid” was also bested by 2007’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” ($140 million), 2008’s “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” ($127 million) and 2006’s “X-Men: The Last Stand” ($123 million).
Disney’s live-action remake of “Aladdin” also debuted on Memorial Day weekend in 2019. That came in a hair lower than “The Little Mermaid” with an opening weekend haul of $116.8 million.
Including international ticket sales, “The Little Mermaid” brought in $185.8 million over the weekend.
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