`Valkyrie' Non-Flop Augurs Well For Cruise, UA

After the reasonably strong box office performance of “Valkyrie” over the weekend, skeptics were robbed of the chance to declare “Flop!”

The Tom Cruise WWII thriller earned $21.5 million over the weekend, with a four-day haul of $30 million since it opened on Christmas Day.

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That was a solid and better than expected box-office draw for “Valkyrie,” which cost a reported $90 million to produce (director Bryan Singer has pegged it at closer to $75 million) and perhaps more than half that to market it.

“This totally robs the nay-sayers of their ability to deem it a flop, because it’s not,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Media By Numbers. “It does show the renewed star power of Tom Cruise.”


Dergarabedian credited Cruise’s comic (and Golden Globe nominated) performance in the summer’s “Tropic Thunder” in helping audiences again embrace the actor.

He also noted that a film about Nazis wouldn’t have earned nearly as much without Cruise’s star power and a savvy marketing campaign. That campaign — which positioned “Valkyrie” as a historical thriller and led to an audience that MGM said skewed 55 percent male — helped turn back earlier bad publicity.

When photos were first released showing Cruise as would-be Adolf Hitler assassin Col. Claus von Stauffenberg, the pictures of the actor in a German WWII uniform and eye patch were widely mocked online. A brief disagreement with the German Defense Ministry due to Cruise’s Scientology beliefs also didn’t help.

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And United Artists, a division of MGM, repeatedly shifted the release date before settling on a Christmas Day release but without an Oscar campaign. For his part, Cruise, who co-owns UA, kept his sense of humor about it.

“Go kill Hitler on Christmas!” joked Cruise in a recent interview with The Associated Press.

But the move paid off partially because of high across-the-board returns on the holiday.

According to Sunday estimates, “Marley & Me” debuted at No. 1 with $37 million in weekend ticket sales and a total of $51.7 million since opening Christmas Day. The four-day take of Adam Sandler’s “Bedtime Stories” totaled $38.6 million and “Benjamin Button” grossed $39 in the same period.

The stakes may have been highest, though, for “Valkyrie.” It was only the second film released by UA since it was reformed by Cruise and producer Paula Wagner. Last year’s “Lions for Lambs,” in which Cruise starred with Meryl Streep, earned just $15 million.

Cruise and Wagner (who has since left her chief executive post at UA) initially planned to release four films a year, so there is all the more pressure on “Valkyrie” — UA’s one 2008 film — to perform well.

Dergarabedian believes “Valkyrie” stands a good chance of becoming profitable in the end, partially because Cruise is still a big draw internationally. Even “Lions for Lambs” managed nearly $50 million at the foreign box office.

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