Final thoughts about the U.N.C.L.E. film

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

With The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now in U.S. theaters and heading for international screens over the next few weeks, we conclude (for now, at least) our coverage of the return of Solo and Kuryakin with these observations.

It’s a miracle the movie even got made: The new version of U.N.C.L.E. got off to a disappointing start in U.S. theaters, getting steamrolled by Straight Outta Compton. But three years ago, many U.N.C.L.E. fans be happy there was even a film to be steamrolled.

For decades, it seemed like there was a curse. Various attempts were made to revive U.N.C.L.E. to no avail. It finally happened. It’s not a hit in the U.S. That’s show biz. But the project survived many obstacles.

Marketing a movie is really hard: Warner Bros. (or “Mr. Warner” as we like to jokingly refer to the studio) was faced with a challenged property.

The original U.N.C.L.E. fan base is aging. There hadn’t been an U.N.C.L.E. production (The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV film) since 1983. The studio had to reach out to a broader public.

Mr. Warner tried a lot. U.N.C.L.E. was part of Warner Bros. activities at the San Diego Comic Con. The studio had a press junket in Rome. It flooded broadcast and cable television with advertisements. It flooded social media for at least the last month.

Warner Bros. also had test screenings in 2014, trying to see if younger viewers would be interested. It appeared to test well. But it’s a different deal from letting people in for free for a testing screening compared with expecting people to spend their own money.

The studio wasn’t helped when rival Paramount shifted Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation to July 31, two weeks before U.N.C.L.E. For Warners there were two choices: shift U.N.C.L.E. to a third release date or make a stand on Aug. 14. It’s hard to argue, except with hindsight, Mr. Warner made the wrong choice.

This should also be a reminder that what Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios is pretty remarkable. Marvel has interested audiences in Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man, in addition to its more familiar characters such as Iron Man and Captain America. It bears repeating: Marketing a movie is really hard.

Don’t mistake intensity for numbers: Some U.N.C.L.E. fans believed the movie would benefit from actor Henry Cavill’s intense fan base.

Cavill fans like their guy. A lot. And they’re fine folks. We’ve communicated with them quite a bit via social media. But it takes more than an intense fan base to turn a movie into a hit. To become a hit, a movie has to reach out to the broader public.

14 Responses

  1. I remember there was a time when a movie fan had no idea of how well their favorite films did box office wise. It wasn’t for us to know, or to care. I’ll see it this weekend and I’m sure I’ll enjoy it, while not being able to embrace it personally due to its avoidance of the elements of the original.

  2. People are get tired of the remakes, retread, and sequels. There are so many wonderful and original project out there. If studios were actually trying to make money, instead of just being write offs for the corporations, they would be looking for new project instead of just producing reruns.

  3. You are aware that The Maltese Falcon (1941), Kizmet (1955), Ben-Hur (1959) and My Fair Lady (1964) are remakes, right? Yes, there are bad remakes. But remakes have been around almost as long as Hollywood has.

  4. Also The Ten Commandments (1956) and Scarface (1982)

  5. Cavill has a fan base?

  6. I was not feeling good this weekend and my husband and I never made it to the movie theater to see the MFU movie. Hopefully, we can see it this weekend. I had read it did not do well at the box office. I hope it does better in other countries. After seeing the movie trailers for it, I am quite sure I will like it. I will most likely will want to see it again On Demand on Verizon Fios once it goes on tv.

  7. Of course there were remakes. But at the time you mentioned, remakes only represented 20% of the films produced in a year. Now it is 80%.

  8. I look at this list of 2015 releases and I see approximately 20 sequels and remakes: A lot, but hardly 80%.

  9. Open channel d please and so it has come to this well said bill i have yet to see the u.n.c.l.e. movie like i told you in the im when we chatted monday evening im hoping to see it this weekend. I always go into a movie with an open mind and i never let a review stop me from seeing a movie and i never leave a movie before its over.thank you for all the u.n.c.l.e. news you have posted ever sir best regards your friend Brian

  10. A different release date would have made all the difference. This was just bad timing.

  11. This TMU movie is not bad. I found that the marketing of the film was lacklustre and halfhearted. Guy Ritchie may have made the film but, clearly, he had no faith in its possible success, hence the postponed release date (it was ready for release in January). A more aggressive advertising campaign was required and additional marketing strategies should have been employed, including the production of a film tie-in (book), toys of children, posters, etc. It boils down, however, to limited vision, by limited marketing talent.

  12. More aggressive marketing? Had you not turned on a television in the past month? I saw ads for the film everywhere, saw Cavill and Hammer on numerous talk shows, saw ads online, a feature in the cinema prior to a showing of Rogue Nation, they were at Comic Con and had a prime appearance at the ESPYs. What part of that was lacking for a film bumped from earlier release dates? Compared with Straight Outta Compton it seemed over marketed. I didn’t event know that film was coming out until a couple of weeks ago.

    Film tie-ins aren’t that common these days and likely would only be bought by fans. Toys wouldn’t make any sense as it simply isn’t kid-friendly like superhero films, Jurassic Park or Minions.That wouldn’t have been a real answer.

    A textbook example of a film suffering from lackluster, unaggressive marketing was Licence to Kill back in 1989.

  13. Delmo Walters…. Henry Cavill has a HUGE fan base and is a very fine actor. There are far too many fan pages for him on Facebook to count.

  14. […] week’s ‘I See Movie’ of the Week match-up saw ‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ take home the crown. I hate to say it but you readers who voted for that movie know y’all […]

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