Disney’s live-action remake of “The Little Mermaid” is emerging as one of the biggest blockbusters of the year in the Philippines, despite performing poorly in other key movie markets in Asia.
“The Philippines, obviously, is a standout market for us,” John Hsu, Disney’s senior vice president of studio business in Asia Pacific, told The Hollywood Reporter.
According to Hsu, the country is the film’s third highest-grossing market in Asia-Pacific and 11th in the world.
Since its release in the U.S. on May 24, the film has performed well, earning over $257 million in domestic ticket sales. The film has also shown promise in Japan, where it has amassed $10.3 million since its release on June 9.
Other Asian markets: The film did not perform as well in China and South Korea, two major markets in the region where previous Disney live-action remakes, such as “The Jungle Book” and “The Lion King,” found immense success.
In China, “The Little Mermaid” earned a mere $3.6 million, while in South Korea, it accumulated $5 million.
While pundits attributed the film’s underperformance to the casting of Black actress Halle Bailey as Ariel, many Disney fans from these territories have pointed out that they were mostly disappointed that the film deviated too much from the original, similar to Disney’s other recent live-action remakes.
Pinoys support Bailey: Hsu noted that the film’s success in the Philippines can be attributed to several factors, including Filipino filmgoers’ adoration for Bailey and her portrayal of Ariel. He also cited the country’s youthful demographics, deep nostalgia for the original Disney animation and a strong affinity for music and singing.
Bailey’s rendition of “Part of Your World,” the lead single from the film’s soundtrack, soared to No. 1 on Spotify in the Philippines and garnered over 13 million plays.
Exceptional marketing: Disney’s marketing team in the Philippines implemented a comprehensive campaign across all media channels, contributing heavily to the film’s success.
Filipino influencers on TikTok were hired to create viral content, including performances of their own versions of Ariel’s songs and comedic posts using the branded “Little Mermaid” effect from Disney.
Some Filipino fans even showed up in special screenings dressed in mermaid and merman cosplay.