Is Matthew Vaughn’s Argylle a Box Office Success?

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Summary

  • Argylle
    is a box-office disaster with a production cost of $200 million, but it was financed by its director and sold to Apple for the same amount.
  • The film’s box-office failure is a major disappointment for both Apple and Universal, as it was intended to be the start of a franchise.
  • Apple’s acquisition of
    Argylle
    was primarily for its streaming service, and unless the film becomes a popular digital rental, it will be a $200 million write-off for the company.


If the comedy spy film Argylle had been entirely distributed and financed by a major Hollywood studio, the film, which has so far grossed approximately $60 million at the worldwide box office against a reported production cost of $200 million, would be poised to become one of the biggest box office bombs in history.


Indeed, Argylle is a box-office disaster of epic proportions. However, while the movie was distributed theatrically by Universal Pictures, Argylle was financed by the film’s director and co-producer, Matthew Vaughn, who then sold the movie to Apple through its Apple Original Films and Apple TV+ subsidiaries for a whopping $200 million.


While Argylle carries a reported production cost of $200 million, this figure represents the price Apple paid to acquire the film, not the film’s actual production cost, which Vaughn stated was comfortably less than $100 million. Moreover, the film’s reported $80 million marketing cost was split equally between Apple and Universal.


If Universal had been solely responsible for the film’s approximately $280 million combined marketing and production cost, Argylle would have represented a crippling loss for the studio, which instead distributed and marketed the movie in exchange for a distribution fee and very modest downside financial risk. Regardless, as Argylle was clearly intended to mark the beginning of a franchise, the film’s box-office failure is a major disappointment for Apple and Universal. Moreover, the film’s box-office failure has fueled speculation over whether Apple should abandon traditional theatrical releases for its upcoming films altogether.


Argylle Is a Franchise Non-Starter

Argylle

2/5

Release Date
February 2, 2024

Runtime
2hr 15min


Read Our Review


Argylle stars Bryce Dallas Howard as Elly Conway, a reclusive best-selling spy novelist whose books all feature the fictional spy character Aubrey Argylle, the eponymous hero of Elly’s Argylle book series. As the film opens, Elly, while traveling by train to visit her parents, is rescued from an attempted kidnapping by Aidan, a real-life spy who informs Elly that Elly is being targeted by various underworld forces precisely because her novels have proven to be uncannily predictive of future events.


Argylle marks Matthew Vaughn’s first feature directorial outing since the 2021 action spy film The King’s Man, the third film installment in the Kingsman film series, which has presently grossed nearly $1 billion at the worldwide box office against a combined production cost of almost $300 million, approximately $100 million per film.


Related
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Amid one of the slowest box-office periods in recent history, the box-office projections for Argylle, which debuted alongside the first three episodes of the Christian drama television series The Chosen, were very modest. In its opening weekend of theatrical release, Vaughn’s movie was projected to gross between $15 million and $20 million at the domestic box office.


However, while Argylle debuted in first place at the domestic box office with a gross of approximately $17.5 million, this marked a disastrous opening for the film in relation to its mammoth cost and heralded the movie as being the first big box-office bomb of 2024.

Argylle Was Made for Streaming


If Argylle had been a traditional studio release, the film, which has presently grossed approximately $28.8 million at the domestic box office and $31.3 million overseas for a current worldwide total of approximately $60 million, would have to gross roughly $600 million at the worldwide box office just to break even in its theatrical run.


Of course, while Apple doubtlessly hoped that Argylle would be a box-office success, Apple’s primary purpose for acquiring the spy comedy was to integrate the film within the company’s Apple TV+ streaming service as Apple did with the movies Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon, both of which were reportedly acquired for the same $200 million price that Apple paid for Argylle. Unlike a Hollywood studio, a brand-focused, trillion-dollar company like Apple can justify the $200 million figure as an outsized advertising cost for the company’s streaming platform.


However, while Apple was able to negate much of the theatrical losses that were posted by Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon through the home entertainment realm, where the Oscar-nominated films have performed strongly, the projected theatrical loss for Argylle is so severe that unless it becomes one of the most popular digital film rentals of 2024, it will be virtually impossible for the film to become profitable in its post-theatrical life. Given that the attempted Argylle cinematic universe is DOA, this also hurts the studio.

Argylle Is a $200 Million Write-Off for Apple


In its second weekend of release, Argylle again finished first at the domestic box office, ahead of the debuting comedy-horror film Lisa Frankenstein, amid the lowest-grossing domestic box-office weekend of 2024. However, this turned out to be another symbolic victory for the film, which grossed approximately $6.5 million domestically in its sophomore weekend, a drop of 63 percent from its doomed opening weekend.


The box-office failure of Argylle, which has been plagued by generally negative reviews, has fueled speculation regarding both how much longer Apple will continue to pay $200 million for films that are seemingly destined to be box-office failures and whether Apple should continue to release their acquired films theatrically at all in the future.


Moreover, the poorly-reviewed Argylle seems poised to become as much a branding failure for Apple as it is a box-office disaster. While Apple’s previous theatrical releases, Killers of the Flower Moon and Napoleon, brought considerable ancillary value to Apple through branding credibility and prestige, Vaughn’s latest outing hasn’t amounted to anything more than a $200 million mistake. Argylle is playing in theaters everywhere. Watch the trailer below.


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