Can Paramount Successfully Reboot Tom Clancy's 'Jack Ryan' Franchise?

It's been more than a decade since Tom Clancy's iconic character Jack Ryan last top-lined a film, but that will change this weekend when Paramount releases "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit." After so much time away from the big screen, will audiences still be interested?

Jan 15, 2014 at 12:12PM

Late last year literary fans were saddened to learn about the death of Tom Clancy. The iconic author was one of the industry's most respected names and a talented storyteller. Clancy was also a powerhouse in the world of pop culture with a top videogame franchise and a string of movie adaptations featuring his main protagonist Jack Ryan. However, since 2002, Ryan's remained dormant at the box office as past reboot attempts never made it off the ground … until now.

This weekend Ryan returns in Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit and distributor Paramount (a subsidiary of Viacom (NASDAQ:VIA)) is hoping this could be the beginning of a new franchise tied to the popular character. Yet after over a decade away from the box office, will audiences come back?

New faces

Shadow Recruit is a reboot in every sense of the word. It's also the first in the Jack Ryan film series NOT to be adapted straight from a Clancy novel. Instead it's a new story by David Koepp that's based on Clancy's characters. Koepp is no novice to this type of thing, as he's also previously helped adapt Mission Impossible and Jurassic Park to the big screen. In addition, Ryan will now be played by rising star Chris Pine (Star Trek), who steps into the role originated by Alec Baldwin and later taken over by Harrison Ford and most recently Ben Affleck.

As was the case a few years ago with James Bond movie Casino Royale, producers decided to take audiences back to the early days of the character. Shadow Recruit focuses on the time after Ryan's joined the CIA and in the process comes across a possible terrorist attack that would cripple the nation's financial system. The recently resurgent Kevin Costner co-stars as Ryan's handler and Keira Knightley plays Ryan's wife, who begins the movie oblivious to her husband's secret life. Throw in Kenneth Branagh (who also directs) as the film's millionaire Russian villain and you can see the formula Paramount's going for with the movie.

The past

It's also important to note this is also a proven franchise … or at least it was in the past. The Hunt For Red October, the first in the Jack Ryan film series, debuted in 1990 and made $120 million domestically. While Patriot Games, which followed two years later, only earned $83 million, Clear And Present Danger rebounded in 1994 grossing $122 million. It remains the most profitable entry in the series.

From there it took until 2002 for Jack Ryan to return to the cineplex with The Sum of All Fears. While Fears was not as well received as past installments, it still pulled in $118 million. In fact, all of the films actually topped the previous one's opening weekend . It's a streak that could continue this weekend as a few early projections  had Shadow Recruit expected to earn around $30 million, which is right around the $31 million Fears made in its opening frame.

The Clancy factor

Clancy's death last year at age 66 was a big shock and his fanbase was stunned. It stands to reason that many of them will come out to honor the affable author's memory by checking out the latest incarnation of his most famous character. After all, Clancy's films and books were consistently entertaining and well put together.

Between all of the above factors it wouldn't be a surprise to see Shadow Recruit succeed. This is, after all, a franchise that has a solid track record. With so many studios banking on franchises to pad their yearly bottom lines, executives already must be looking into possible follow-ups should the numbers make sense. Yet following the lower-than-expected returns for the studio's Paranormal Activity spin-off The Marked Ones, you can bet the microscope this film's under just got a little tighter.

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Fool contributor Brett Gold has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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