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‘Argylle’ Bombs With $18 Million Debut

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Agent Argylle couldn’t crack the box office code.

Matthew Vaughn’s globe-trotting spy comedy “Argylle” sputtered in its box office debut, earning a dismal $18 million from 3,605 North American theaters. The movie, backed by Apple and distributed by Universal, cost $200 million to produce and is shaping up to be the year’s first big misfire.

Despite terrible reviews and lousy audience scores (it holds a 35% on Rotten Tomatoes and “C+” on CinemaScore), “Argylle” ranked No. 1 at the domestic and global box office. The film added just $17.3 million from 78 international markets for a worldwide tally of $35.3 million.

Vaughn, the filmmaker of “The Kingsman” series and “X-Men: First Class,” intended to turn “Argylle” into a trilogy. But those grand plans are looking a lot less likely at this rate — unless there’s a dramatic uptick in ticket sales. Bryce Dallas Howard stars in “Argylle” as the reclusive author of a popular series of espionage novels. Her life takes a turn when the plot of her fictional books begins to mirror the covert actions of a real spy organization. Sam Rockwell, Bryan Cranston, Catherine O’Hara and Samuel L. Jackson round out the cast.

“This is a weak opening for a new action comedy,” says David A. Gross, who runs the movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research. “For an original [action comedy] to break through, the humor has to jump off the screen. That’s not happening here.”

This marks Apple’s third big-screen bet following Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon” (which debuted to $23 million) and Ridley Scott’s “Napoleon” (which opened to $20.6 million). And while it’s one of the deepest-pocketed companies in the world, Apple presumably doesn’t want to be associated with underperforming blockbusters. It would take roughly $500 million in global ticket sales to break even at a traditional studio, an unlikely benchmark for “Argylle” and one that fewer than 10 films have reached in 2022 and 2023.

“Argylle” topped the box office because it’s the only new movie to open in three weeks. Elsewhere, “The Beekeeper,” “Wonka” and other holdovers rounded out the top five.

In second place, a faith-based TV series “The Chosen” brought in $6 million from 2,300 theaters over the traditional weekend and $7.4 million since opening on Thursday. Fathom Events is rolling out the show’s Season 4 exclusively in cinemas with two-week runs of episodes one through three starting on Feb. 1, followed by episodes four through eight later in the month.

David Ayer’s action thriller “The Beekeeper” landed in third place after spending three weekends in the No. 2 spot. The Amazon MGM film collected $5.28 million from 3,277 venues, bringing its North American tally to $49.2 million and its worldwide total to $122 million.

Timothee Chalamet’s “Wonka” remained in the top four for the eighth weekend in a row, adding $4.7 million from 2,901 locations. After two months of release, “Wonka” has grossed $201 million domestically and more than $550 million globally. The Warner Bros. musical comedy cost $125 million and stands as a financial success, thanks to the film’s impressive staying power.

Universal and Illumination’s “Migration” swooped to the No. 5 spot with $4.2 million from 2,830 venues in its seventh weekend in theaters. The animated comedy about a family of ducks who head south for winter has generated $106.2 million in North America and $210 million worldwide to date. With its $70 million price tag, “Migration” managed to stick around on the big screen long enough to turn a profit in its theatrical run.

“Mean Girls” dropped to the sixth slot after three weekends in first place. The book-turned-2004 movie-turned-Broadway musical-turned-movie brought in $4 million from 3,107 theaters. After four weekends of release, “Mean Girls” has amassed $66.3 million at the domestic box office and $92.7 million globally, a decent result given the film’s economical $36 million budget.

Although “The Beekeeper” and “Mean Girls” were modest surprises, the January box office was down roughly 46% from pre-pandemic times and 15% behind last year. In terms of the overall year, says Franchise Entertainment Research’s Gross, “the month was a step backwards.”

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