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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Movie Box Office: Bigger Bomb Than Expected

The Man from UNCLE 2015 Henry Cavill
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2015: Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie is a domestic box office bomb: Will it be saved by international filmgoers?

Aug. 19: Directed by Sherlock Holmes’ Guy Ritchie and toplining Man of Steel star Henry Cavill and The Lone Ranger co-star Armie Hammer, the Warner Bros. release The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has been a domestic box office disaster, performing about 25 percent below – already quite modest – expectations.

This past weekend, the $80 million-budget The Man from U.N.C.L.E. collected a meager $13.42 million from 3,638 North American theaters, averaging $3,689 per site. After five days out, the big-screen reboot of the popular 1960s television series starring Robert Vaughn and David McCallum has taken in a mere $16.8 million. For comparison’s sake: F. Gary Gray’s Straight Outta Compton earned nearly $3 million more on one day (Saturday, its second day out).

Overseas box office

Will Guy Ritchie’s flick have better luck internationally? Well, the answer is positively Yes. After all, Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel grossed $377 million internationally vs. $291 million in the U.S. and Canada. Besides, there’s Avengers: Age of Ultron-like expectations surrounding 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, both also featuring Cavill as Superman.

But will curiosity about Henry Cavill’s future superhero movies be enough for people to pay to see a comedy-action flick without superheroes, Transformers-like CGI, James Bond, or Tom Cruise? One thing is clear: in order to alleviate Warners’ losses, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. will have to perform quite strongly internationally.

At this stage, prospects don’t look all that great. According to official studio estimates found at Deadline.com, by Sunday evening The Man from U.N.C.L.E. had grossed $12.1 million from 23 territories, including $3.1 million in Russia, a highly disappointing $2.3 million in the U.K., and $1.7 million in Australia.

A quick comparison: earlier this year, on its first weekend out in the U.K., Kingsman: The Secret Service scored $6.5 million. In Australia the film brought in $3.6 million, and the same amount in Russia. The stronger U.S. dollar helps to explain some – but not all – of the difference.

The Man from UNCLE 2015 poster
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2015 poster.

Henry Cavill box office

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is Henry Cavill’s first star vehicle following Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel. Relative to its cost, Tarsem Singh’s Immortals was a domestic box office disappointment back in fall 2011 (though it performed quite well overseas), while Mabrouk El Mechri’s cheaply made The Cold Light of Day, released in Sept. ’12 in North America because of Cavill’s association with Superman, scored a measly $3.76 million.

Not many action or superhero stars have managed to become – and remain – domestic (or, oftentimes, international) box office draws when not in costume or in character. This goes back all the way to (at least) Johnny Weissmuller, MGM’s in-house Tarzan. Christopher Reeve was a popular Superman, but not much else in terms of box office receipts, while it took Sean Connery more than a decade to fully shed his James Bond association. Even then, Connery’s box office was spotty: a few big hits (The Hunt for Red October, The Rock) interspersed with lots of big bombs (The Presidio, The Russia House).

More recently, Thor actor Chris Hemsworth scored with Rupert Sanders’ action fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman (having Kristen Stewart as his co-star helped more than a bit), but bombed in Ron Howard’s Rush and Michael Mann’s Blackhat. Hawkeye or no, Jeremy Renner hasn’t been able to carry a movie on his own, as evidenced by Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and the $125 million-budget The Bourne Legacy reboot – $113.2 million in the U.S. and Canada – starring Renner in the old Matt Damon role.

Even Robert Downey Jr., the highest paid star in the universe, is hardly a box office draw when not surrounded by CGI-enhanced green screens. Two recent Downey Jr. box office bombs: Joe Wright’s The Soloist and David Dobkin’s The Judge – two of his only three non-Marvel, non-Sherlock Holmes star vehicles of the last seven years. (The other one was Due Date, co-starring The Hangover‘s Zach Galifianakis, which managed to go in the black thanks to the international box office.)

In that regard, Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark star Harrison Ford was an exception to the rule – in large part thanks to the success of Peter Weir’s Witness and Ford’s ensuing Best Actor Oscar nomination.

Armie Hammer The Man from UNCLE
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2015 poster.

Armie Hammer box office

As for Armie Hammer, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is his first starring role since Gore Verbinski’s mammoth 2013 box office bomb The Lone Ranger, co-starring Johnny Depp.

Thus far, Hammer hasn’t been very lucky with his post-The Social Network choice of movies. Besides The Lone Ranger, there have been Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, and Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror, co-starring Julia Roberts and Lily Collins. Both were critical and box office disappointments.

Next in line for Armie Hammer are:

  • Fabio Guaglione and Fabio Resinaro’s Mine, with Annabelle Wallis and Tom Cullen.
  • Nate Parker’s provocatively titled The Birth of a Nationnot a remake of D.W. Griffith’s 1915 epoch-making and still highly controversial classic. Also in the cast: Nate Parker himself as a former slave leading a revolt in mid-19th century Virginia, Penelope Ann Miller, Gabrielle Union, and Jackie Earle Haley.
  • Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire, also featuring Brie Larson, Cillian Murphy, Sharlto Copley, Sam Riley, Jack Reynor, and Noah Taylor.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie cast

Besides Henry Cavill as CIA agent Napoleon Solo – a role initially intended for Brad Pitt, and then Tom Cruise – and Armie Hammer as KGB agent Illya Kuryakin, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. features the following:

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

Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram (Sherlock Holmes) were credited for the screenplay, from a story by Ritchie, Wigram, Jeff Kleeman (one of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. producers), and David C. Wilson (Supernova).

Hit TV series

The television series ran 1964-1968. Besides Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, it featured frequent Alfred Hitchcock collaborator Leo G. Carroll (Suspicion, The Paradine Case, North by Northwest) as Alexander Waverly.

Among those found in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series’ extensive list of guest stars – including a number of Oscar winners and nominees – were:

Joan Crawford. Eleanor Parker. Janet Leigh. Vera Miles. Senta Berger. Jill Ireland. Carol Lynley. Jessie Royce Landis. Anne Francis. Paul Lukas. Chad Everett. Albert Dekker. Angela Lansbury. Patricia Medina. Cher. Mala Powers. Julie London. Kathleen Freeman. Dorothy Provine. Leonard Nimoy. William Shatner. Dan O’Herlihy. Zohra Lampert. Yvonne Craig. Gene Raymond. Patsy Kelly. Elsa Lanchester. France Nuyen. Cesar Romero. Diane McBain. Juliet Mills. Michael Ansara. Barbara Bouchet. Victor Buono. Eve Arden. Grayson Hall. Akim Tamiroff. Broderick Crawford. Richard Beymer. Terry-Thomas. Barry Sullivan. Joe Mantell. Eddie Albert. Telly Savalas. June Lockhart. Joan Collins. Anne Jeffreys. Tura Satana. Vincent Price. Estelle Winwood. Kevin McCarthy. Kim Darby. Jack Lord. George Sanders. Richard Kiel. Robert Culp. Martin Balsam. Leslie Nielsen. Herbert Lom. Charles Ruggles. Susan Oliver. Ricardo Montalban. Darren McGavin. Fritz Weaver. Jack Palance. John Carradine. Curt Jürgens. Elisha Cook Jr. George Macready. Allen Jenkins. Luciana Paluzzi. Kurt Russell.

Armie Hammer and Henry Cavill The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2015 images: Warner Bros.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie Henry Cavill Armie Hammer
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. box office: Bigger domestic flop than expected?

Before I address the box office debacle of Warner Bros.’ The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I’d like to remark on the fact that 2015 has been a notable year at the North American box office. That’s when the dinosaurs of Jurassic World smashed Hulk and his fellow Halloween-costumed Marvel superheroes of Avengers: Age of Ultron. And smashed them good: $636.7 million vs. $457.5 million.

Check out: ‘Jurassic World’: The Game Is On.

At least in part for sentimental (or just downright morbid) reasons – Paul Walker’s death in a car accident in late 2013 – Furious 7 has become by far the highest-grossing The Fast and the Furious movie in the U.S. and Canada: $351 million. (Shades of Heath Ledger’s unexpected death and the humongous success of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises in 2008, or, going back nearly a century ago, of Rudolph Valentino’s untimely death at age 31 and the blockbuster The Son of the Sheik, released posthumously in 1926.)

There’s more: In 2015, Johnny Depp saw his star dim further following his latest career-imploding box office bomb, Mortdecai; Mark Wahlberg’s Ted 2 proved that not all braindead sequels bring in the expected number of asses to fill movie theater seats; and Judd Apatow-Amy Schumer’s Trainwreck demonstrated that there’s enough room out there for more than a couple of box office friendly female comedians.

Last one: starring Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan, the R-rated Fifty Shades of Grey presented itself worthy of its (box office) inspiration, Catherine Hardwicke’s Twilight, the 2008 fantasy romance that turned Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson into household names. Who needs vampire fangs when you have whips and chains?

Year’s latest domestic box office bomb

Earlier this year, George Clooney flopped in Brad Bird’s Tomorrowland. The aforementioned Johnny Depp and Gwyneth Paltrow bombed in David Koepp’s Mortdecai. Bradley Cooper, Rachel McAdams, and Emma Stone bombed in Cameron Crowe’s Aloha. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jason Clarke bombed in Alan Taylor’s Terminator Genisys. Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis bombed in Andy and Lana Wachowski’s Jupiter Ascending. Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis bombed in Michael Mann’s Blackhat.

Yet early summer 2015 was sizzling hot overall – and I’m not talking about the fact that this is about to become the warmest year on record. U.S. and Canada theaters were filled with popular popcorn-and-beer fare like Jurassic World, Furious 7, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Pitch Perfect 2, and Inside Out (popcorn for the parents/guardians, beer for the kids – or whatever). But like Planet Earth itself, summer 2015 is coming to an end with a whimper.

In recent weeks, Paul Rudd’s $130 million-budgeted Ant-Man opened below expectations – the worst inflation-adjusted debut of a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie – but, perhaps because the competition has turned out to be quite uncompetitive, it has since managed to stay afloat, having to date collected an estimated $153.57 million (in addition to $178.9 million internationally).

Hardly a major moneymaker for distributor Walt Disney – in fact, once you factor in distribution and marketing expenses the film in all likelihood is still in the red – Ant-Man is hardly a bomb either once you factor in current and upcoming ancillary revenues that will surely place it comfortably in the black.

But no such luck for Chris Columbus-Adam Sandler’s Pixels and Josh Trank’s Fantastic Four, starring Kate Mara, Miles Teller, Jamie Bell, and Michael B. Jordan, both of which opened and will end with a barely noticeable screech. Indeed, Fantastic Four holds the unenviable record of having the worst debut of a big-budget superhero movie so far this century.

And now comes The Man from U.N.C.L.E., a big screen adaptation of the 1960s television series, directed by Sherlock Holmes’ Guy Ritchie and starring Man of Steel superhero Henry Cavill and The Lone Ranger supercowboy Armie Hammer. Had Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin been comic book superheroes, the Fantastic Four bottom-of-the-barrel record would be shattered this weekend.

Henry Cavill The Man from UNCLE movie
Henry Cavill in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. 2015.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: One of the year’s biggest domestic box office disasters

Budgeted at a reported $80 million – not including marketing and distribution expenses that could easily lift its price tag to $120 million – Warner Bros.’ The Man from U.N.C.L.E. earned an estimated $900,000 on Thursday night (Aug. 13) and a less than expected $4.8 million from 3,638 sites on Friday (including Thursday evening grosses).

The weekend box office total has been revised downwards: From the expected $17-$19 million range, down to $14-15 million – and now, barring a miraculous Saturday/early Sunday surge – further down to $13-14 million. If this range is on target, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. will be lucky if it reaches $40 million in the domestic market by the end of its run.

Sunday, Aug. 16, update: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. collected $13.56 million according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.

For comparison’s sake:

  • Matthew Vaughn’s R-rated, $81 million-budget Kingsman: The Secret Service opened in Feb. 2015 with $36.2 million, eventually cuming at $128.26 million domestically. In the cast: Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Michael Caine, Samuel L. Jackson, and Mark Strong.
  • Back in Oct. 2010, Robert Schwentke’s $58 million budget action comedy RED opened with $21.8 million (approx. $22 million today), going on to collect $90.4 million (approx. $91 million today) in North America. In the cast: Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Mary-Louise Parker, Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. vs. Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation

Adding insult to injury, on Friday The Man from U.N.C.L.E. trailed another humorous thriller based on a 1960s television series: Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, now on its third weekend out (and the one late summer bright star). Rogue Nation toplines Tom Cruise (who had previously dropped out of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), Rebecca Ferguson, Jeremy Renner, and Alec Baldwin.

And to think that back in the 1960s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was so popular that Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer jumbled together several episodes to release them as features – e.g., Joseph Sargent’s The Spy in the Green Hat (1967), Barry Shear’s The Karate Killers (1967).

As for the big-screen try-out, don’t expect to see Son of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. or Another Man from U.N.C.L.E. any time soon – or ever. Any dreams Warner Bros. may have had of kicking off a new cinematic franchise have been surely been dashed for all eternity.

It’s been a bad year for the old Jack Warner studio. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is the latest WB casualty, following the likes of the Mark Wahlberg-coproduced Entourage, Ed Helms’ Vacation (via New Line), Sofia Vergara-Reese Witherspoon’s Hot Pursuit, Liam Neeson’s Run All Night, Will Smith’s Focus, and the aforementioned Jupiter Ascending.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. has a poor 48 percent approval rating and 5.8/10 average among Rotten Tomatoes‘ top critics. Among the movie review aggregator’s critics in general, the film has a much higher – but still only so-so – 67 percent approval rating and a mediocre 6.2/10 average.

Straight Outta Compton: Domestic sleeper hit

Oh, yes, for the record: the no. 1 movie at the domestic box office this weekend is F. Gary Gray’s musical biopic Straight Outta Compton, about the birth of rap music in the Los Angeles area. Featuring O’Shea Jackson Jr. as Ice Cube, Corey Hawkins as Dr. Dre, and Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E, the film could reach as high as $60 million by Sunday night.

It remains to be seen whether or not Straight Outta Compton is a true crossover hit; we’ll know by next weekend. Either way, don’t expect it to be nearly as successful internationally.

The studios’ official weekend box office estimates come out on Sunday morning. Weekend box office actuals will be released on Monday.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. cast

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

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

Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram (Sherlock Holmes) were credited for the screenplay, from a story by Ritchie, Wigram, David C. Wilson (Supernova), and Jeff Kleeman (one of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. producers).

Television series stars and guest stars

The television series ran 1964-68. Robert Vaughn and David McCallum had, respectively, the Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer roles. Leo G. Carroll (Spellbound, North by Northwest) had the Hugh Grant part.

Among The Man from U.N.C.L.E. series’ countless guest stars were:

Joan Crawford. Eleanor Parker. Senta Berger. Janet Leigh. Jill Ireland. Carol Lynley. Anne Francis. Vera Miles. Chad Everett. Albert Dekker. Angela Lansbury. Paul Lukas. Patricia Medina. Jessie Royce Landis. Mala Powers. Kathleen Freeman. Leonard Nimoy. Dan O’Herlihy. Julie London. Patsy Kelly. Elsa Lanchester. France Nuyen. Kim Darby. Leslie Nielsen. Dorothy Provine. Herbert Lom. Terry-Thomas. Barry Sullivan. Joe Mantell. Eddie Albert. William Shatner. Telly Savalas. Joan Collins. Cesar Romero. Juliet Mills. Michael Ansara. Eve Arden. Anne Jeffreys. Jack Lord. June Lockhart. George Sanders. Charles Ruggles. Susan Oliver. Ricardo Montalban. Jack Palance. John Carradine. Curt Jürgens. Allen Jenkins. Kurt Russell.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Henry Cavill
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. with Henry Cavill.

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

Aug. 14: 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.

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 $34 million in the U.S. and Canada, in addition to $39 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 Deadline.com, 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 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.


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

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1 comment

ravenwest -

Open Channel “D” for Disappointed, Deceived, Disaster for what was so highly anticipated by Man from UNCLE TV fans who have been waiting 1/2 century for the big screen version, this was all “Man” and NO UNCLE. Other than the title and the names of the 2 main characters, not one bit of the TV show, not even the theme (other than a 2 sec piece over the radio) was used. It wasn’t until the ending credits that anyone even mentioned what UNCLE stood for.
As a “stand-alone” movie it was OK, but why would anyone spend a huge part of their budget for the rights to a name and not use any of the original plot?
At least we will always have re-runs available on METV network and DVDs. And, of course that fantastic novel “Undercover Reunion” by Raven West which is a true tribute to the original series and a true Man From UNCLE fan pleaser!

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