Year of the Spy: Warner Bros. dodges M:I 5

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

Paramount’s decision to move Mission Impossible 5 up to late July has caused Warner Bros. to change its summer release schedule — but not (at least for now) its movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Warners had its Point Break action movie slotted for July 31. That was before M:I 5, with star-producer Tom Cruise, was placed on the same date after originally being scheduled for Dec. 25.

So now, Warners has moved Point Break to Dec. 25, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO WEBSITE. Thus M:I 5 and Point Break have swapped their original release date.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., also from Warners, is still slotted in for Aug. 14, just two weeks after M:I 5. Thus, movies based on two 1960s spy shows still will debut just a fortnight apart.

‘Year of the Spy’ gets a shakeup: M:I 5 moved up 5 months

Tom Cruise

Tom Cruise

The “Year of the Spy” has just been shaken up. Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible 5 has been moved up five months to July 31 from Dec. 25, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO website.

The move gets M:I and its star-producer out of the busy Christmas season, which includes Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens on Dec. 18. Paramount, the studio behind the M:I movies, rescheduled a movie called Monster Trucks to Dec. 25 from May 29.

M:I’s new release date may also be bad news for Warner Bros. The studio has an action movie called Point Break due out on July 31 and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. two weeks later, on Aug. 14.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie was given the mid-August date after being rescheduled from Jan. 16. Warner Bros. ended up giving a wide release to American Sniper in mid-January, and it has been a big hit. The question now is whether Warner Bros. will be tempted to change U.N.C.L.E.’s release date again.

Of course, Cruise originally had been attached to the U.N.C.L.E. movie to play Napoleon Solo. He pulled out to concentrate on the new M:I movie, with Henry Cavill accepting the Solo role.

Our U.N.C.L.E. memo to Mr. Warner

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer with props that won't be in the U.N.C.L.E. movie (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer with props that won’t be in the U.N.C.L.E. movie
(Art by Paul Baack)

Updates and corrects to say the almost identical image appeared in Empire magazine.

To: Mr. Warner of Warner Bros.

From: The HMSS Weblog

Subject: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

According to THE COLLIDER WEBSITE your publicity department released what was described as “the very first” U.N.C.L.E. movie image.

The image? Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo and Armie Hammer as Illya Kuryakin relaxing with drinks on a terrace in Rome, looking at the camera while Alicia Vikander looks off to the side.

That’s it? It’s almost identical to an image that appeared in Empire magazine and which was posted on sites such as COMIC BOOK MOVIE in August. The MOVIENEWZ SITE, which originally posted in February about the movie, added the image to its gallery of pictures related to the film .

The “official” still is merely photographed from a (slightly) different angle.

We’d be the first to acknowledge, Mr. Warner, your studio faces some interesting challenges marketing the U.N.C.L.E. movie. While it’s based on the 1964-1968 television series, that show has only been seen sporadically in syndication. That means younger viewers haven’t had the opportunity to get exposed to it compared with other old shows such as Star Trek.

Also, one of the aspects about the original show was it was about a multi-national organization where an American worked with a Russian during the Cold War. But others have latched on to that idea.

For example, Kingsman: The Secret Service, coming out in February, turned MI6 of the original comic book it’s based on into a mysterious international organization. It even has a secret entrance similar to U.N.C.L.E.’s.

Your movie, meanwhile, is an “origin” story, focused on Solo and Kuryakin before forced to work together. It’s more like The Man Without U.N.C.L.E.

In any case, Mr. Warner, your marketing department has to build awareness. That “official” still is a little bland. We know, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly in an issue last year that there’s some intense action. We know through your own PRESS RELEASE when the movie was about to begin filming there’s conflict between Solo and Kuryakin. Heck, press photos that came out during production look more interesting that this first “official” still.

There’s still plenty of time to build buzz before the film’s mid-August release, Mr. Warner. Hopefully, the first teaser trailer will attract tension. With the next “official” image release, you may want to consider something that hasn’t already been seen. Good luck.

(Before writes in to say there is no Mr. Warner at Warner Bros., it’s a joke. There hasn’t been a “Mr. Warner” at Warner Bros. since Jack Warner sold the studio in the 1960s.)

UPDATE: Can Henry Cavill do U.N.C.L.E. sequels?

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Henry Cavill as Napoleon Solo

Adapted and updated from a June post.

File this under “getting ahead of yourself.” Still, at major companies, people are paid to think about various future scenarios. So…

Back in June we posed the question if The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is a success, will the lead actor be able to do any sequels?

Warner Bros. IN AN OCT. 15 PRESS RELEASE said it plans on keeping Henry Cavill busy playing Superman.

In addition to the current Batman-Superman movie now in production, Warners said it plans a two-part Justice League movie with Cavill as Superman as well as another Superman solo film the actor.

The studio also controls U.N.C.L.E. and has a movie in post-production which will be released in August 2015.

As we stated a few months ago, you have to wonder if Cavill will have enough time to do future U.N.C.L.E. films. He played Napoleon Solo in the U.N.C.L.E. movie.

The Batman-Superman movie, which amounts to a preview of the Justice League, is scheduled to be released in March 2016. Warner Bros. says Justice League Part one will be released in 2017 and Justice League Part Two will be out in 2019. The studio didn’t disclose a planned release date for Cavill’s second solo Superman movie. The actor first played the character in 2013’s Man of Steel.

Superhero movies involve a lot of special effects and long shooting schedules. Even if Cavill signed an U.N.C.L.E. contract that secured his services for sequels, you have to wonder if he’ll have any time to squeeze future Solo adventures into his schedule.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie was shot over three months. Compare that to Skyfall, the most recent James Bond movie, that had a seven-month shooting schedule.

Again, this is looking way ahead. The U.N.C.L.E. movie hardly is assured of being a hit. It doesn’t have the name recognition of the comic book characters from Marvel and DC that are populating movies.

Still, it is something to keep in mind as events unfold in the months ahead. Whatever contracts Cavill has signed, Superman-Justice League movies are a top priority for Warner Bros. U.N.C.L.E., even if the movie is a financial success, is a secondary priority.

U.N.C.L.E. movie delayed to August 2015

Slow down, Solo. You're not being called up for another year.

Stand down, Solo. Mr. Warner says you can wait another seven months.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie is being delayed by seven months to Aug. 14, 2015 from Jan. 16, according to several entertainment news sites, including Deadline: Hollywood and Comingsoon.net.

The Guy Ritchie-directed film, based on the 1964-68 television series, has underwent a series of reshoots. Initially, they were being done with a second-unit crew. But Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo, traveled from the Detroit area (where a Batman-Superman film is in production) to London to participate in a reshoot along with Armie Hammer, who plays Illya Kuryakin.

Some fans were concerned about the January release date. That’s sometimes viewed as a dumping ground for movies not good enough for the end-of-the-year holiday season. Now it’s slated for a late summer slot. By the time August 2015 rolls around, it will have been 23 months since the start of principal photography. Another chapter in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. curse?

Secret Service delayed, Batman-Superman blinks

Henry Cavill in a new publicity image

Henry Cavill in a new publicity image

As was once said of Willard Whyte, it’s like playing Monopoly with real buildings.

Movie studios have shuffled their release schedules of major movies. For readers of this blog, two shifts are of note.

Kingsman: The Secret Service, directed by Matthew Vaughn, has been pushed back from October to Feb. 13, 2015, according to A STORY ON COLLIDER.COM. The film, based on a comic book by Mark Millar and Dave Gibbons, has been marketing itself as embodying elements of 1960s James Bond films, as well as ’60s spy shows such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

The bigger news was that Warner Bros./DC Comics blinked, avoiding a potential confrontation with Marvel Studios/Disney. Superman V. Batman: The Dawn of Justice, is now slated to come out on on March 25, 2016.

Originally, Warner Bros. wanted the Batman-Superman film to come out in July 2015. Then, it was pushed back to the first weekend of May 2016. Marvel characters have owned the first May weekend since 2008, when the first Iron Man movie debuted. For 2016, Marvel, now part of Walt Disney Co., planned a third Capt. America movie for that weekend. Nobody thought both superhero epics would come out at the same time — and they were right.

U.N.C.L.E. figures, indirectly, into both moves. The Batman-Superman film includes Henry Cavill, who plays Napoleon Solo in Warner Bros. movie version of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., as Superman. The Secret Service — which includes some U.N.C.L.E. memes — now will come out less than a month after the U.N.C.L.E. movie’s debut in mid-January 2015.

The changed release date for the Batman-Superman film is part of a broader schedule of films that Warners/DC releases, according to the Deadline entertainment website.

UPDATE: VARIETY OFFERS AN ALTERNATE EXPLANTION for the Batman v Superman change. “(B)y moving out of May and into March, the comicbook film signals that Hollywood is opening its eyes to the fact that moviegoing can be a 12-month-a-year proposition. Now, the superhero mash-up will be the first film starring the Dark Knight not to debut during the summer, something that would have been all but unthinkable a few years ago.”

It also quotes a Warner Bros. executive as saying, “If you have a great film, people will come no matter when it’s dated.” If that’s sincere, and not just spin, perhaps U.N.C.L.E. fans might feel better about that movie’s January 2015 release date. We’ll see.

U.N.C.L.E.’s odd post-series history

"It's hard to find our show some times, Illya."

“It’s hard to find our show sometimes, Illya.”

UPDATE: The 1980s section, corrects name of network to Christian Broadcasting Network. CBN changed its name to Family Channel name after it showed U.N.C.L.E.

Also, readers (one is a comment below, the other was on Facebook) have mentioned the following: The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair, a 1986 A-Team episode with U.N.C.L.E. memes (Robert Vaughn was a regular in that show’s final season and David McCallum was the episode’s guest star) as well as a Dec. 31, 1989-Jan. 1, 1990 U.N.C.L.E. marathon on TNT.

While we’re at it, Turner Classic Movies a few years ago had a daylong marathon of the eight U.N.C.L.E. movies, with the first beginning at 6 a.m. eastern time. TCM still occasionally shows them.

With the news that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is going to be shown by MeTV in the U.S. starting next month, here’s a review of the show’s odd history after it ended its 1964-68 run on NBC.

This is by no means a definitive history. But it gives you an idea how a series that once was very popular had trouble finding an audience after its first run. The show made stars of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, even to the point where the Beatles wanted to meet Vaughn in 1966. But later, it was as if the show disappeared.

Meanwhile, other series that were on at the time, such as Mission: Impossible and The Wild Wild West, were much easier to find on local television stations. And, of course, the original Star Trek (which shared many of the same guest stars as U.N.C.L.E.) became a broad pop culture event while in syndication.

Circa 1968-1969: For a period, U.N.C.L.E. could be seen in syndication. An Indianapolis independent station showed U.N.C.L.E. (Both Man and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.) Monday through Friday in an afternoon time slot.

However, this did not last that long. In general, there was a concern about violence on television and this perhaps affected U.N.C.L.E. For whatever reason, U.N.C.L.E. soon became virtually invisible.

1970s: The best chance to see U.N.C.L.E. was when one of the eight “movies” — re-edited from series episodes — popped up on local television. In the `1970s, I caught To Trap a Spy (an expanded version of the series pilot) on a local television station. CBS even showed The Spy With My Face, an expanded version of the first-season episode The Double Affair, on the CBS Late Movie. At the time, CBS didn’t have its own viable late-night show and was content to show movies starting at 11:30 p.m. eastern time.

1980s: In the early 1980s, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, which made the series in association with producer Norman Felton’s Arena Productions, dusted off U.N.C.L.E. The studio made a renewed syndication push. The original MGM logs at the end of episodes were removed and new ones added.

In 1985, the Christian Broadcasting Network — controlled by tele-evangelist Pat Robertson — showed The Man From U.N.C.L.E. at 11 p.m. eastern time in the U.S. But for the CBN debut,the channel skipped over the entire black-and-white first season. Its first telecast was The Arabian Affair from the second season.

By the spring or summer of 1986, CBN showed all but four episodes: the two-part Alexander the Greater Affair and The Very Important Zombie Affair from the second season and The Abominable Snowman Affair from the third. The latter two weren’t shown, reportedly because of their un-Christian content (voodoo with Very Important Zombie, depictions of Eastern religions in Snowman). As for Alexander the Greater, it turned out nobody could find it. More about that shortly.

Meanwhile, there were changes behind the scenes. Television mogul Ted Turner bought MGM, primarily to gain control of its film library, including classic films such as Gone With the Wind and Ben-Hur. But Turner borrowed heavily for the purchase. So he sold the studio, while keeping the film library — which also included U.N.C.L.E.

Thus, in 1988, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was part of TNT’s Saturday morning (and later Saturday afternoon) programming. TNT telecast Very Important Zombie and Abominable Snowman shortly thereafter.

1990s: By the mid-1990s, U.N.C.L.E. shows up in the early-morning hours of Tuesday (technically part of its Monday schedule). In 1999, a Turner employee finds Alexander the Greater. The two-part story was telecast July 4, 2000, the last U.N.C.L.E. telecast on the cable network. In the interim, Turner has sold out to Time Warner, whose Warner Bros. now controls the show.

NBC had never rerun Alexander the Greater. So the TNT telecast was the first time the television version had been seen since September 1965. Until then, only the movie version, One Spy Too Many, had been available.

In 1999, TV Land had a “spy week” promotion in connection with the second Austin Powers movie. Four episodes each of The Man and The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. are shown on separate nights, along with series such as It Takes a Thief and The Avengers. For Man, four first-season episodes are telecast. (Girl only ran one season, making selection easier.) TNT, around the same time, showed some episodes of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. in connection with the birthday of star Stefanie Powers.

21st century: Both The Man and Girl From U.N.C.L.E. have shown up on other cable channels but don’t enjoy a lot of visibility.

In 2007, the series is released on DVD, initially by Time-Life. The original MGM logo at the end of episodes was restored. Within a few years, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and the eight U.N.C.L.E. movies are released by Warner Archive, the manufactured-on-demand arm of Warner Bros.

MeTV picking up The Man From U.N.C.L.E. comes just ahead of the show’s 50th anniversary as well as a movie version of the show coming in January.

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