The Walt Disney Company released their live-action adaptation of The Little Mermaid in May 2023 to great fanfare, but a recent report has shed light on the massive production budget that sank the film before it even had a chance to swim. According to Caroline Reid at Forbes, the film’s production budget swelled to nearly $300 million by the end of August 2022, eight months before the movie opened.
The revelation came from filings in the United Kingdom, where Reid, through careful analysis of records pertaining to The Walt Disney Company subsidiary Sand Castle Pictures, was able to uncover the colossal production costs behind The Little Mermaid.
This new budget estimate more than doubles the previously reported $250 million budget, which was thought to be the cause behind the film’s financial struggles. The massively inflated budget may explain why the film, which grossed $569.1 million worldwide, was considered a flop by Hollywood standards.
The significant production costs also challenge the notion that The Little Mermaid would have been profitable with any assistance from the U.K. Their filing showed that Disney received a sizable £46.6 million tax rebate, about $56.8 million, which was subtracted from the initial budget cost bringing it down to $240.2 million. However, this still makes the breakeven point far harder to attain, driving losses up to $127.8 million.
Even if we apply the more conservative 2.5x factor, the losses the film incurred jump from $60 million to $192.5 million. Mr. H, a popular movie-based YouTuber, reacted to the news stating that the film had bombed massively.
“This absolutely bombed. This absolutely bombed. A staggering waste of money. Absolutely unreal. Absolutely obscene. Absolutely obscene.” Mr. H lamented. “You can’t have a production budget this big, and expect it to be financially viable. This has failed miserably at the box office. Absolutely abysmal. woeful, in fact.”
Reid concludes her findings by mentioning how the high production costs could result from the film’s time-consuming post-production period, an area that she believes to be an additional source of expense. She explains that the four-year gap between the initial production date, which was reported to go back to 2019, and the film’s theatrical release in May 2023 is most likely the reason the final production costs soared to such immense heights.
The Little Mermaid’s production budget exploded into the realm of $300 million to make the live-action adaptation, with The Walt Disney Company recording a fiscal loss far beyond what anyone expected. Unless the studio reconsiders such massive budgets for larger-than-life projects, we can expect to see more stories such as this emerge in the future.