Box Office: Matthew Vaughn and Apple’s Big-Budget ‘Argylle’ Bombs With $18M U.S. Debut

Spurned by many critics and consumers alike, Matthew Vaughn‘s pricey spy comedy Argylle bombed at the North American box office in the biggest miss to date for Apple’s theatrical ambitions.

The movie opened to an estimated $18 million from 3,605 cinemas against a price tag of $200 million to $250 million, according to sources. The results weren’t much better overseas, where Argylle opened to an estimated $17.3 million from 78 markets, for global start of $35.3 million. The good news: Thanks to little competition, it won the weekend. Also, exhibitors were happy for an event film with A-list stars as they struggle with a dramatic downturn in product because of production delays due to the strikes.

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Universal is distributing and helping to market Argylle on behalf of Apple Original Films in exchange for a distribution fee. Because Apple is first and foremost one of the world’s richest tech companies whose priority on the content side is streaming, its theatrical efforts are judged differently. If legacy Hollywood studios released a $200 million movie with results like these, they would be skewered.

Argylle, directed from a script by Wonder Woman‘s Jason Fuchs, tells the tale of a best-selling spy novelist and cat-loving recluse whose tranquil life is upended when the plots of her books begin coming to life.

Vaughn’s reality-bending spy thriller doesn’t lack star power. The cast includes Bryce Dallas Howard, Henry Cavill, Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, John Cena, Ariana DeBose, Dua Lipa, Catherine O’Hara, Sofia Boutella and Samuel L. Jackson. Alfie the cat is played by Chip, the real-life pet of supermodel Claudia Vaughn (née Schiffer).

Argylle is Apple’s third traditional theatrical release in recent months, following Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-nominated Killers of The Flower Moon and Ridley Scott’s Napoleon. Both movies likewise cost $200 million or more to produce. Many in Hollywood believe it’s a good thing to have Apple Original Films throw its hat into the ring since it means more movies on the big screen before they head for streaming on Apple TV+.

While it may be an awards darling, Killers of the Flower Moon — which nabbed 10 Oscar nominations, the third most of any film behind Oppenheimer (13) and Poor Things (11) — Scorsese’s epic has only grossed $157.6 million at the global box office. Napoleon has fared somewhat better with $219.4 million to date (the latter film earned three Oscar noms).

The other new nationwide offering at the domestic box office this weekend is a special release of the faith-based series The Chosen: Season 4, Episodes 1-3. The producers of the hit streaming series wanted to make it available first in theaters. Episodes four, five and six will play in cinemas later this month. Fathom Events is handling The Chosen theatrically in its widest release ever.

The series exceeded expectations to land at No. 2 with an estimated $6.1 million from 2,260 theaters for the three day weekend. It officially opened on Thursday, so its four day start was $7.5 million.

Amazon MGM Studios and Miramax’s The Beekeeper kept stinging away in its fourth weekend, grossing $5.3 million from 3,277 locations for a domestic tally of $49.4 million and an even better $73.1 million overseas for a global tally of $122.5 million.

Among other holdovers, Warner Bros.’ musical Wonka crossed the $200 million mark domestically, while Paramount’s musical Mean Girls danced past $90 million in a vote of confidence for the oft-maligned genre.

Wonka, placing No. 4 for the weekend despite being in its eighth outing, continues to sing loudly overseas. That includes opening to $5.6 million in South Korea for a foreign gross of $270.6 million and $571.7 million globally, by far the biggest showing of the year-end holiday season.

At the specialty box office, Oscar best-picture nominees American Fiction (Amazon MGM Studios) and Poor Things (Searchlight) stayed in the top 10 as they continued to expand.

American Fiction placed No. 9 with $2.3 million as it upped its theater count to 1,902 for a domestic tally of $15 million.

Poor Things followed with $2.1 million from 1,905 cinemas. It crossed $28.2 million domestically and $40 million overseas for a global tally of $68.3 million. Domestically, Poor Things boasts the best showing for a 2023 platform release, and the second-best of the post-pandemic era behind last year’s Oscar sensation (and best picture winner) Everything Everywhere All at Once.

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