A lot is riding on Tom Cruise's "Valkyrie," the United Artists release that opens on Thursday - specifically, how much UA parent MGM can plunk back into the studio’s $500 million film-financing fund. An earlier UA release, "Lions for Lambs," lost money, which left MGM unable to replenish the fund. The NY Post's Peter Lauria says that's why lots of money is being spent marketing the film – way more than normal for a release not expected to top $100 million.
Increasing the amount of money UA can access from the fund also plays into the decision to move the release date for "Valkyrie" to Christmas from February. Sources said releasing the film this year allows MGM to receive payment for it under its output deal with Showtime, which expires on Dec. 31. Had MGM waited until next year, it would have risked guaranteed ancillary revenue since the studio doesn't have a cable-television deal in place for 2009. Instead, it would have to bank on getting money for carriage from cable operators for the new movie channel MGM plans to launch with Paramount and Lionsgate to replace the revenue it is losing from Showtime.
MGM President Mary Parent denied any connection between a 2008 release and a Showtime deal. Whatever the case, the Christmas Day premiere could be a challenge, what with four other features coming out that day: "Bedtime Stories," "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "Marley and Me," and "The Spirit." For what it’s worth, the early reviews are mostly mixed. From Variety's Todd McCarthy:
After a long takeoff, "Valkyrie" finally takes flight as a thriller in its second half but never soars very high. Bryan Singer's long-awaited account of the near-miss assassination of Adolf Hitler by a ring of rebel German army officers on July 20, 1944, has visual splendor galore, but is a cold work lacking in the requisite tension and suspense. This second production from Tom Cruise and Paula Wagner at United Artists will do better than the first, "Lions for Lambs," but is a decidedly odd choice for Christmas Day release, and looks destined for just so-so commercial returns.