U.N.C.L.E. movie underwhelms in U.S. opening

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

UPDATE (Aug. 17) — Revised figures on Monday, ACCORDING TO THE NUMBERS WEBSITE, put The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie at $13.4 million, compared to $60.2 million for Straight Outta Compton.

(ORIGINAL POST): The Man From U.N.C.L.E. underperformed in the United States and Canada, finishing No. 3 in its debut weekend with estimated ticket sales of $13.5 million, according to THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Guy Ritchie’s reinterpretation of the 1964-68 television series trailed Straight Outta Compton, a film about the rap group N.W.A. at $56.1 million and Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, in its third weekend of release.

The Tom Cruise M:I film had estimate weekend ticket sales of $17 million, according to A TWEET from Exhibitors Relations.

Straight Outta Compton initially was estimated to produce a $30 million opening weekend and is coming in at almost twice that. It also was also shown on 2,757 screens, compared with U.N.C.L.E.’s 3,638, according to the Box Office Mojo website.

Over the weekend on social media, there was some debate about all this. Those who were annoyed (or worse) that the movie didn’t retain the series’ secret headquarters, Jerry Goldsmith theme (only a few notes were used in the film), or who wanted different casting, etc., said the results validated their positions.

The answer, though, may be more simple than that. It could be that outside of the aging U.N.C.L.E. fan base (including folks such as the Spy Commander) and the younger Henry Cavill fan base, there weren’t that many people who wanted to see the movie.

Warner Bros. can’t be blamed for a lack of marketing support. The studio bought ads all over U.S. television the past few weeks. For example, it paid for a two-minute ad on the ABC prime-time telecast of the ESPN ESPY awards. The spot ran shortly before transgender ex-athlete Caitlyn Jenner picked up an award for sports courage, the main highlight of the show.

Would having Jerry Goldsmith’s full theme boosted the box office take? If a great Goldsmith theme had that much impact, the 1973 series Hawkins on CBS would have lasted longer than a season and the 1975 Archer series (as in Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer) on NBC would have run longer than six episodes.

Would having the secret HQs, complete with Del Floria’s tailor shop have changed the outcome? 2015 audiences already had a secret HQs in Kingsman: The Secret Service. It was basically an updated version of the U.N.C.L.E. secret HQs of the show.

Would having, say, Jon Hamm, the star of the now-completed Mad Men series, as Napoleon Solo instead of Henry Cavill changed things?

Hamm’s Million Dollar Arm in 2014 was No. 4 its opening weekend in the U.S. at $10.5 million, according to Box Office Mojo. It finished with worldwide box office of $38.3 million. Of course, to be fair, he also was the voice of Herb Overkill in Minions, which had worldwide box office of more than $900 million.

Would having cameos by Robert Vaughn or David McCallum, the stars of the original show, increased ticket sales significantly? Would ticket sales double or triple? Or would they have risen by 1 percent or less? Meanwhile, McCallum endorsed the film in a Fox News interview and that doesn’t seem to have had much impact.

For Warner Bros., the best hope for the film may be in overseas markets. The DEADLINE: HOLLYWOOD website reported there were early signs of a better reception in various countries, including Russia.

No Hawaii Five-O for Mad Men

Jon Hamm as Mad Men's Don Draper

Jon Hamm as Mad Men’s Don Draper

Hawaii Five-O didn’t make the cut for inclusion in the season 6 episode of Mad Men, failing to join The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and James Bond movies which were previously referenced by the popular AMC show.

The episode took place between Dec. 3, 1967 (when CHRISTIAAN BARNARD performed the first successful human heart transplant and was mentioned in the story) and the early morning hours of Jan. 1, 1968, or well before Five-O debuted in September 1968. But the episode opened up with a sequence filmed in Hawaii (one of the few details to emerge before the telecast), which raised the possibility Five-O might get included.

The two-hour show did include an Elvis Presley song for the ending and depicted adman Don Draper watching an episode of The Donna Reed Show, which ended its first-run episodes in the 1965-66 season. Presumably, Draper (Jon Hamm) was watching a rerun.

In 2010, Mad Men had an episode that included a clip of a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Last year, the show had references to the 1967 version of Casino Royale as well as You Only Live Twice.

11 new questions about a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

In honor of the number 11 on Napoleon Solo’s U.N.C.L.E. badge, we present these 11 new questions about a planned movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

1. Is George Clooney’s reported exit from the project potentially fatal for the film’s prospects? Not necessarily. Clooney has flirted with spy movie projects without ultimately committing. He was supposedly going to play Artemus Gordon in 1999’s Wild, Wild West film but backed out. One story was he really wanted to play Jim West while agreeing to play Artemus, hoping the producers would change their mind about having Will Smith play Jim West. When Clooney didn’t get his way, this version of the story goes, he bolted and the film got made anyway (though fans of the original TV show perhaps wished otherwise).

2. Was Clooney ever mentioned in any other spy projects? Around 2000, Clooney and director Steven Soderbergh (who would direct this new U.N.C.L.E. film) were interested in doing a Matt Helm movie that would mimic the four 1966-1969 Dean Martin movies (i.e. it wouldn’t have faithfully adapted Donald Hamilton’s novels, either). That movie never happened.

3. What needs to happen to make an U.N.C.L.E. movie a reality without Clooney? Soderbergh needs to remain committed. He’s viewed in Hollywood as a talented director (his resume includes the Clooney-Brad Pitt Ocean’s 11, Ocean’s 12 and Ocean’s 13). Also, he works quickly and has a reputation for bringing in films on (or under budget). With a shaky economy, that’s a talent movie executives value more than ever. If Soderbergh wants out, all bets are off.

4. Has progress been made? Screenwriter Scott Z. Burns has told the Cinema Blend Web site that the U.N.C.L.E. script is finished. the Deadline entertainment news Web site, which first reported Clooney’s U.N.C.L.E. exit, says Warner Bros. still wants to start filming by February. That’s about all we *really* know.

5. Is the movie script based on any television episodes? Burns told Cinema Blend it is not.

6. Who might play Napoleon Solo now that Clooney is out of the picture? Well, Jon Hamm, star of Mad Men, would be seen by some fans as a good choice. The popularity of Mad Men, a show set in the 1960s about an advertising agency, is probably one reason why the Soderbergh U.N.C.L.E. project is being done as a period piece, rather than set in the present day.

7. Any problems with a Hamm casting? Depends on who you ask. Some fans complained that Clooney, at 50, was too old to play Solo. Hamm is 40, almost a decade older than Robert Vaughn was when he originated the Solo role. But it’s doubtful that would prevent him from playing Solo. A bigger problem is whether his Mad Men schedule would permit it.

8. Any talk of who would play Illya Kuryakin? In all the various reports about the movie, there has been no talk of a specific actor to take on the role first played by David McCallum. It might depend on who’s playing Solo.

9. Even if the project stays on track, when might it actually be seen in theaters? Optimistically — and this assumes filming actually starts in February — the end of 2012 would be the earliest. Some time in the first half of 2013 might be more realistic.

10. Is this really a movie worth making? A qualified yes. Soderbergh has talent and has actually watched most first-season episodes of the original series. The makers of the 1983 television film The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. didn’t view *any* first-season shows (generally viewed by fans as the best of the show’s run).

11. What are the odds it gets made? We’ll put it at 50-50 for now. That’s a lot more optimistic than we’ve been in the past. An U.N.C.L.E. movie is as close to reality as it has ever been over the past two decades. It’s safe to say the project is in a crucial phase now. It remains to be seen whether Napoleon Solo — Ian Fleming’s other spy (co-created with Norman Felton, the original show’s executive producer; the show was developed by Sam Rolfe) makes a 21st Century comeback.