The first opinions are in on Tom Cruise’s Christmas Day release about the failed assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler.
The movie in question is "Valkyrie," a project now exceeding $100 million and maybe the cause of the end of this chapter in the life of United Artists.
Not since UA gave birth to "Heaven’s Gate" in 1980 and capsized as a result has a studio’s future been so tied to one title.
It doesn’t help that since UA went into business with Cruise and Paula Wagner, the longtime business partners broke up and Wagner left. To make matters worse, Merrill Lynch, which organized the $500 million credit line for Cruise/Wagner, has now also vanished. They were bought by Bank of America two weeks ago.
Luckily, Merrill didn’t hand the full amount over so fast.
Now, several industry insiders have been to a couple of screenings of "Valkyrie." What do they say? They agree that it’s a well-made movie, and even an absorbing thriller. But what matters more is that they’re telling me "it’s not an Oscar movie, there’s nothing Oscar about it."
Even awards aren’t the total problem, however. "You sit there and say, 'Who am I selling this movie to? Who’s the audience? And the answer is, No one.'"
Indeed, the marketing problems for "Valkyrie" are huge. Dec. 26 is already pretty crowded with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in "Revolutionary Road," the wide release of Ron Howard’s "Frost/Nixon" and John Cusack in the highly anticipated "Shanghai". That would cover the intellectual upscale audience.
That leaves family drama — Forest Whitaker in "Hurricane Season," Jennifer Aniston in "Marley and Me" — plus Adam Sandler in "Bedtime Stories."
And it’s not like there won’t be big box office stars in theaters that week. Brad Pitt, Will Smith and Jim Carrey all have releases out one week earlier.
That, compounded with the obvious: watching Hitler kill off his would-be assassins isn’t exactly holiday fare. The movie ends with the most evil person who ever lived murdering the "good guys." There’s no happy ending, that’s for sure.
"You just don’t know which set of bad Germans to root for," one source told me. "There are no heroes, that’s for sure."