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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Box Office: One of Biggest Flops of the Year

‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ box office: Hollywood’s third major domestic bomb in a row

Right on the heels of Chris Columbus-Adam Sandler’s Pixels and Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four comes The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a big screen adaptation of the 1960s television series, directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Man of Steel hero Henry Cavill and The Lone Ranger co-star Armie Hammer. (See updated follow-up post: “‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ Movie Box Office: Bigger Bomb Than Expected.”)

Budgeted at a reported $88 million, to date Pixels has collected a mere $61.11 million in North America. Overseas things are a little better: an estimated $73.6 million as of Aug. 9, for a worldwide total of approx. $134.71 million.

Sounds profitable? Well, not yet. First of all, let’s not forget that distributor Sony Pictures likely spent another $45 million (about 50 percent of the production budget) marketing and distributing Pixels. And that, as a rule of thumb, Hollywood studios add to their coffers about 55 percent of a movie’s domestic gross and 40 percent of its international gross.

Then we have Fantastic Four, toplining Miles Teller, Jamie Bell, Kate Mara, and Michael B. Jordan, which suffered the worst debut of a big-budget superhero movie so far this century. After a week, the $120 million-budget 20th Century Fox release has grossed a paltry $33.96 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to $38.96 million internationally up to last Aug. 12.

‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ flops

Warner Bros.’ The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which opened with an estimated $900,000 last night (Aug. 13), cost a reported $80 million. According to, the Guy Ritchie-directed action-thriller-comedy is expected to gross a paltry $5 million on Friday (including the Thursday evening take) for a total of $14-$15 million from 3,638 theaters by Sunday evening – down from earlier estimates in the already meager $17-18 million range.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. does have a chance to perform better internationally – Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel grossed $377 million overseas vs. $291.04 million in North America, and there has been all that buzz about the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, starring Cavill and Ben Affleck, and the recently announced The Justice League Part One and Justice League Part Two movies, also featuring Cavill as Superman. But in order to compensate for its dismal North American grosses, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. will have to do really well elsewhere.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Armie Hammer Henry Cavill 2015‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ 2015 with Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill.

I should add that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is Henry Cavill’s first post-Man of Steel star vehicle and Armie Hammer’s first starring role since the mammoth 2013 box office bomb The Lone Ranger, co-starring Johnny Depp. Hammer has thus far not been very lucky with his post-The Social Network choice of movies: Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio; Mirror Mirror, starring Julia Roberts; and The Lone Ranger have all been box office and critical disappointments – or worse.

Tom Cruise irony

Somewhat ironically, the no. 2 film this weekend is expected to be another humorous thriller based on a 1960s television series, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, directed by Christopher McQuarrie and featuring Tom Cruise, Jeremy Renner, and Alec Baldwin.

Somewhat Ironically Part II: Tom Cruise was to have starred in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., but dropped out of the project reportedly to focus on MI5. His replacement was Henry Cavill.

Now, the no. 1 movie at the domestic box office this weekend? F. Gary Gray’s musical biopic Straight Outta Compton, which could reach as high as $60 million by Sunday night and that can be considered one of the year’s biggest sleeper hits. The film features O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, and Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E.

Don’t expect Straight Outta Compton to be nearly as successful internationally. In fact, this is the sort of movie that is made for particular audience segments in the United States proper.

‘The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ cast

Besides Armie Hammer as KGB agent Illya Kuryakin and Henry Cavill as CIA agent Napoleon Solo, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. features the following:

Alicia Vikander. Elizabeth Debicki. Luca Calvani. Sylvester Groth. Hugh Grant. Jared Harris. Christian Berkel. Misha Kuznetsov. Guy Williams. David Beckham.

The screenplay is credited to Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram (Sherlock Holmes), from a story by Ritchie, Wigram, David C. Wilson (Supernova), and Jeff Kleeman (one of the film’s producers).

1960s TV series

The television series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ran 1964–68. Robert Vaughn and David McCallum starred as, respectively, Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin. Leo G. Carroll (North by Northwest) played Alexander Waverly (Hugh Grant in the big-screen reboot).

Among the series’ countless guest stars were:

Joan Crawford. Janet Leigh. Jill Ireland. Dan O’Herlihy. Carol Lynley. Anne Francis. Vera Miles. Eleanor Parker. Senta Berger. Chad Everett. Albert Dekker. Angela Lansbury. Paul Lukas. Patricia Medina. Leonard Nimoy. Julie London. Patsy Kelly. France Nuyen. Terry-Thomas. Barry Sullivan. George Sanders. Jack Palance. Ricardo Montalban. Kurt Russell.

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer The Man from U.N.C.L.E. images: Warner Bros.

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