FT tries to analyze 007’s post-SPECTRE financial future

SPECTRE teaser poster

SPECTRE teaser poster

The Financial Times, IN A STORY POSTED TODAY, tries to analyze the post-SPECTRE financial future of the James Bond film franchise.

The U.K.-based financial publication was prompted by how Sony Pictures’ deal to release James Bond films ends with SPECTRE, the 24th 007 film due for release in November.

Here are some items of note from the FT:

Releasing 007 films is a nice, but not stupendous business, for a studio: The 007 franchise is owned by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer and Danjaq/Eon Productions (the Broccoli-Wilson family).

MGM, however, is too small after a 2010 bankruptcy and reorganization, to release Bond movies on its own. It needs a partner.

Sony was part of a group that owned MGM when Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were released. Post-bankruptcy, Sony was MGM’s partner for releasing 2012’s Skyfall and this year’s SPECTRE.

An excerpt from the FT:

“While it’s a good piece of business the financial upside or downside is not significant on either end,” says a person close to the studio. “The studio can make good money but not runaway money.”

The FT story dovetails with a 2013 STORY IN THE NEW YORK TIMES that reported how Sony was third in line for profits from Skyfall, with the Broccoli-Wilson family and MGM taking their cut first.

Nevertheless, the FT said various studios — including Time Warner’s Warner Bros. and 21st Century’s 20th Century Fox — will still be interested in wrestling the Bond releasing deal from Sony.

Securing a new 007 releasing deal may be related to additional financial deals by MGM: The Financial Times says MGM may still sell stock to the public in an initial public offering or a simple sale to somebody else.

“The studio could arguably be worth more if a buyer knows a Bond distribution deal is still to be done,” according to the FT story by Matthew Garrahan. “Sony, Warner Bros, Fox and the rest of Hollywood will be watching closely.”

To read the entire Financial Times story, CLICK HERE. A shoutout to reader Paul Wynn who brought this to our attention on our Facebook page.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s gamble

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

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

After two years (or so) of fan debates, we’re about six weeks before The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie — a project decades in the making — finally comes out.

Needless to say, it’s been a roller coaster ride. Who should be Solo? Who should be Kuryakin? Should this even be attempted at all?

This post is prompted after reading yet another fan debate on these subjects. Rather than hash over the debating points, this is an attempt to summarize what’s going on.

It would appear that director Guy Ritchie and his producing/writing partner Lionel Wigram are betting they can strip U.N.C.L.E to its component parts — Solo, Kuryakin and Waverly — and dispense with familiar memes (cool secret HQs, among them) that have been adapted by others such as Kingsman: The Secret Service. There may be the odd reference to the original 1964-68 series, but it may not be much more than that.

The Ritchie-Wigram target — something that Warner Bros. evidently agrees with — is younger viewers. Essentially, the filmmakers want to make U.N.C.L.E. palatable to the younger demographic while hoping enough first-generation fans are willing to go along for the ride.

Will it work? We’ll see. For some first-generation fans, having a Del Floria’s front to the secret HQs is a key part of the original U.N.C.L.E. concept. Others don’t like an “origin” storyline, which has become the default option for lots of “re-imagined” popular entertainment.

Whatever the case, “Mr. Warner” (check out old Warner Bros. cartoons for the joke) has stepped up recently to promote the movie, including making it part of next weekend’s San Diego Comic Con. For many long-time fans, having U.N.C.L.E. be part of that event — which has become a major venue for promoting movies — couldn’t even be imagined as recently as a year ago.

U.N.C.L.E. stars to promote movie at San Diego Comic Con

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. teaser poster

The stars of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie will promote the film at the San Diego Comic Con on July 11, according to a WARNER BROS. PRESS RELEASE.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, who play Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, are scheduled to be joined by female leads Alicia Vikander and Elizabeth Debicki, the studio said in announcing its activities at the convention.

Cavill and Hammer reprise the roles that Robert Vaughn and David McCallum played on the 1964-68 television series. Vikander plays Gaby Teller, the “innocent” of the story while Debicki is the lead villain. The movie, directed by Guy Ritchie, is a different take on U.N.C.L.E., without familiar memes such as the organization’s secret headquarters.

The convention appearance will take place a little more than a month before the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s Aug. 14 release date.

Cavill is doing double duty for Warners at the event. He’s also scheduled to be promote Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice. That movie, which comes out in March 2016, features a conflict between Superman (Cavill) and Batman (Ben Affleck). It also an attempt to be Warners’ answer to Disney/Marvel’s Avengers franchise. The press release leads off with details about the Batman v Superman promotion.

Cavill first played Superman in 2013’s Man of Steel. He was cast as Solo in U.N.C.L.E. around the time Man of Steel came out in June of that year.

Some early U.N.C.L.E. reactions arrive

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Following this week’s early press screenings of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, reactions are starting to appear on social media.

None of them have been detailed. The guess here is that an embargo is in place before those invited to the see the movie can comment in detail.

That’s standard operating procedure, involving movie reviews and feature articles about films. Occasionally you’ll hear about a flap where a scribe published before the embargo time. The U.N.C.L.E. screen is unusual because it took place six weeks before the movie’s Aug. 14 release date.

In any case, for what it’s worth, here are some tweets that have come out since the screening.

From a Reuters scribe (included in an update of our post the other day about the screening):

From a film critic who has written for BlackFilm.com and Latino Review, according to the Rotten Tomatoes website:

A film writer at Uproxx weighs in.

A writer for BlackFilm.com (spotted by Henry Cavill News, which is how we saw this one):

Warner Bros. gives an early press screening of U.N.C.L.E.

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Warner Bros. has conducted an early media showing of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, according to the editor of an entertainment news website.

Steven Weintraub, editor in chief of Collider.com, took to Instagram and Twitter tonight to say he was attending.

“Going back to the 60s with Guy Ritchie tonight,” Weintraub wrote in a caption accompanying a photo he put on Instagram. “Seeing an early screening of THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. Wb. must think they’ve got the goods to show us the film 6 weeks early.”

The movie, starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, doesn’t arrive in theaters until Aug. 14. Warners originally scheduled the Guy Ritchie-directed film for mid-January, usually seen as a studio dumping ground for movies.

Warners later switched U.N.C.L.E. to August and kept it there, even after Paramount moved up Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation to July 31 from Dec. 25. The M:I movie features star/producer Tom Cruise, who had been courted to play Napoleon Solo in U.N.C.L.E. but opted against it. That paved the way for Cavill’s selection.

UPDATE (June 30): A writer for the Reuters news service put out a tweet after the screening. No other details provided.

Fact checking TCM’s To Trap a Spy presentation

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap  a Spy

Luciana Paluzzi and Robert Vaughn in To Trap a Spy

TCM on July June 13 showed To Trap a Spy, the movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. pilot during prime time, part of a evening featuring films with actor Robert Vaughn, the original Napoleon Solo.

The cable channel has showed the film before but usually in off hours. The 10:15 p.m. eastern time presentation meant it’d get an introduction from TCM host Robert Osborne, a one-time actor (he makes a brief appearance in the pilot for The Beverly Hillbillies) who has written extensively about movies for decades.

However, there were a few errors. Most of these are old hat to long-time U.N.C.L.E. fans. But with a new U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out in August, potential new fans may have watched. With that in mind here’s some fact checking.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was an immediate hit. No. It originally aired on NBC on Tuesday nights against The Red Skelton Show on CBS. U.N.C.L.E.’s ratings struggled, but rallied after a mid-season change to Monday nights. The show’s best season for ratings was the 1965-66 season when it aired at 10 p.m. eastern time on Fridays.

The show was “created by producer Norman Felton.” The situation is a bit more complicated. Felton definitely initiated the project. He consulted Ian Fleming, who contributed ideas but the one that stuck was naming an agent Napoleon Solo.

The vast bulk of U.N.C.L.E. was created by Sam Rolfe (who wrote the pilot and gets the “written by” credit on To Trap a Spy), including the character of Illya Kuryakin. The show had no creator credit and Rolfe had a “developed by” credit.

Felton’s “inspired idea.” Osborne said Felton always intended to turn some of the episodes into feature films released internationally (true). He then said the films were actually two episodes of the series edited together along with extra footage. (Not 100 percent true).

The first two movies, To Trap a Spy and The Spy With My Face, were based on first season single episodes: the pilot, The Vulcan Affair, and The Double Affair, with additional footage.

Starting with the second season, the show did two-part episodes that were edited, with some additional footage, into movies for the international market. That was the case for the rest of the series, including the two parter, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, that ended the series in January 1968.

Osborne also made it sound as if all of the first season were filmed in color, even though it was broadcast in black and white on NBC. Not true.

Both The Vulcan Affair and The Double Affair were filmed in color, as was the extra film footage with each. The rest of the season, however, was filmed in black and white.

One oddity is the first season episode The Four-Steps Affair. Ever efficient, Felton took some of the extra footage from the first two U.N.C.L.E. movies (including Luciana Paluzzi in To Trap a Spy) and had a new story written to incorporate it. Sexy scenes for To Trap a Spy between Vaughn and Paluzzi were toned down for Four Steps.

Some of Four Steps is a black and white print from a color negative. The same applies to the broadcast versions of Vulcan and Double. But the new material for Four Steps was filmed in black and white, like most of the first season. There’s a slight change in contrast as the story goes back and forth between the two sources of footage.

Meanwhile, in Osborne’s closing remarks after the movie, he worked in a plug for the Guy Ritchie-directed U.N.C.L.E. movie coming out in August. TCM is owned by Time Warner, also the parent company of Warner Bros., the studio releasing the August film.

The comic book movie ‘glut’ of 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Avengers: Age of Ultron poster

Over the past few months, we’ve been reading various comments on social media such as, “I’m tired of all of the comic book movies!” Or “Comic book movies are ruining the cinema.”

We’re not quite five-and-a-half months into the year. How many have there actually been?

Well, most prominently, there’s Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to 2012’s Marvel’s The Avengers. As of June 8, it had worldwide box office of $1.35 billion, ACCORDING TO BOX OFFICE MOJO.

That’s less than the $1.5 billion for the 2012 original and the $1.51 billion for this year’s Furious 7. Still, most studio executives would kill for box office exceeding $1 billion. Also, Avengers: Age of Ultron’s budget still came in $50 million cheaper (with location shooting in South Africa, South Korea and Italy) than SPECTRE and its $300 million (or more) budget.

Other comic book-based films released so far? Well, there’s Kingsman: The Secret Service, which based on a limited series of comics and revamped significantly from the original. After that, not so many.

What’s coming in the second half of 2015? There’s Marvel’s Ant-Man in July and Fox’s new attempt at a Fantastic Four movie in early August. After that….not so many.

Granted, movie goers have been seeing a teaser trailer for Batman v Superman: The Dawn of Justice. But that won’t be out until March 2016. Granted, Marvel/Disney and Warner Bros./DC have announced slates of comic book-based films going out to 2020. But they’re not out this year.

A half-century ago, James Bond films were dismissed by some critics as little more than comic books. Older Bond fans seethe at the memory. At the same time, some of those same fans look at comic book-based films the same way those 1960s critics looked at Bond. The more things change, they more they stay the same.

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