By Ben Fritz
2:45 PM CST, January 14, 2013
Following weak box office performances for re-releases of "Monsters, Inc.," "Finding Nemo" and "Beauty and the Beast" in 3-D, Walt Disney Studios has canceled plans for a 3-D "The Little Mermaid" in September.
The underwater animated hit from 1989 was the fourth and final 3-D re-release for which Disney announced plans in late 2011 after "The Lion King" proved a surprise hit in the format, grossing nearly $100 million in the U.S. and Canada.
But "The Lion King" turned out to be an anomaly, as the three follow-ups grossed far less. "Beauty and the Beast" took in $47.6 million last January, "Finding Nemo" $40.7 million in September, and "Monsters, Inc." only $30.5 million since its Dec. 19 release.
Though 3-D conversions cost only a few million dollars each, those weak box office performances are not enough for Disney to justify the marketing expense of a nationwide release.
Disney had already begun work on the 3-D conversion of "The Little Mermaid" in November, the studio's animation chief creative officer, John Lasseter, said in an interview at the time.
Disney also announced release plans for several other movies Monday.
A fifth "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie will arrive in theaters on July 10, 2015. The studio has yet to confirm a director or which cast members will return, though it is difficult to imagine a "Pirates" movie without star Johnny Depp.
"The Muppets 2" will come out March 21, 2014.
"1952," a science-fiction film to be directed by "The Incredibles" and "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" helmer Brad Bird, is set to hit theaters on Dec. 19, 2014, in 3-D.
"Maleficent," which stars Angelina Jolie as the villain in a live action spin-off from the animated classic "Sleeping Beauty," has been delayed from March 14, 2014, to July 2 of that year. The new date is five days after the fourth "Transformers" movie, setting up a battle of big-budget tentpoles over the July 4 holiday.
The dating of the new movies helps to fill out Disney's 2014 and 2015 schedule that was previously light on tentpoles from the studio's internal production unit -- though movies from Marvel Studios and its animation houses were already set for release.