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Apple’s Mega-Budgeted ‘Argylle’ Misfires on Opening Day

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Cat’s out of the bag — “Argylle” is shaping up to be the first high-profile box office misfire of 2024. The espionage action-comedy only saw $6.5 million in ticket sales from 3,605 North American venues across opening day and preview screenings. That is not a good start for a presumed crowdpleaser with a star-studded ensemble and a massive $200 million production budget.

The Apple Studios production represents the company’s third recent wide release in North America, this time partnering with Universal to have the traditional studio handle distribution. It’s also another flexing financial swing for the tech giant, matching the massive price tags of “Killers of the Flower Moon” and “Napoleon.” Both of those films didn’t exactly ignite the box office last fall — Martin Scorsese’s Western has reached $156 million globally, while Ridley Scott’s war film fared better with $219 million. But both epics successfully signaled that Apple has entered the prestige business, attracting storied directorial talent and, hopefully, accolades from major awards bodies.

What exactly does “Argylle” represent though? Mostly, a mega-budgeted, alleged franchise starter that will now likely face an uphill battle to fulfilling that promise. Well, that’s Hollywood. Of course, $200 million isn’t exactly a huge burden for Apple, which topped $3 trillion in market cap last summer. But it’s still a big investment for an intellectual property that’s failing to make a splash.

“Argylle” has garnered mostly negative reviews, but what’s even worse is audiences aren’t finding much to like either. Research firm Cinema Score issued a severe “C+” grade after surveying early ticket buyers. The buzz is bad and there might not be enough curiosity to save this cat in the weeks ahead.

Helmed by “Kingsman” mastermind Matthew Vaughn, the film stars Bryce Dallas Howard as an introverted author, whose book series about a fictional spy named Argylle (Henry Cavill) attracts the attention of global espionage organizations once the stories begin to predict real world events. The sprawling cast also includes the likes of Sam Rockwell, Dua Lipa, Bryan Cranston, Ariana DeBose, John Cena, Catherine O’Hara, Samuel L. Jackson, Sofia Boutella and Rob Delaney.

There hasn’t been a new wide release since Bleecker Street’s sci-fi thriller “I.S.S.” misfired two weeks ago, but “Argylle” isn’t going to be the film that jump-starts foot traffic. Theaters will instead have to look ahead to the Valentine’s Day releases of Paramount’s music biopic “Bob Marley: One Love” and Sony’s superhero entry “Madame Web.”

“Argylle” might also want to watch its back, as Fathom Events is drawing solid business with its theatrical release of the first three episodes of “The Chosen” Season 4, a dramatization of the life of Jesus Christ. The series has been a niche but reliable box office draw for faith-based audiences over recent years; Fathom opened the Season 3 premiere in November 2022, landing an $8.2 million debut. Playing in 2,199 locations, rivals estimate that the Season 4 premiere event release took in $1.7 million across Friday and Thursday previews.

Holdovers from the holidays and January will compose the rest of the top five. “The Beekeeper,” “Wonka,” “Mean Girls,” “Anyone but You” and “Migration” are all in the mix, eyeing weekend grosses around $4 million and drops of less than 45%.

Notably, Warner Bros.’ “Wonka” will reach a $200 million domestic gross this weekend. It’s now the eighth-highest-grossing North American release of 2023. Meanwhile, Amazon MGM’s “Beekeeper” will swarm ahead of $50 million domestic within the week and Sony’s rom-com “Anyone but You” will surpass a $75 million domestic total in the coming days.

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