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MGM delays 'Valkyrie' release again

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UPDATED 7:57 p.m. PT April 7, 2008

The ride of "Valkyrie" into movie theaters just got a little longer.

Tom Cruise and United Artists said Monday that they will wait until 2009 to unspool the Cruise-toplined World War II thriller, UA's next scheduled release after November's commercially unsuccessful Cruise starrer "Lions for Lambs." Studio executives said the change was prompted by the recent exit of two rival films from the lucrative Presidents Day weekend.

Cruise and longtime producing partner Paula Wagner were given the reins of UA in November 2006 with plans to release four films a year boasting budgets upward of $40 million. Their first release was "Lambs," the Robert Redford-directed drama about the war in Afghanistan that grossed less than $15 million domestically.

The Bryan Singer-helmed "Valkyrie," in which Cruise plays an eyepatch-wearing Nazi officer, is now set to debut in wide release on Feb. 13. It had been set for Oct. 3.

The two films moved from the holiday frame were Sony's comedy sequel "The Pink Panther 2," which moved up one week to Feb. 6, and Universal's horror thriller "The Wolfman," which shifted from Feb. 13 to April 3.

"When an opening became available for Presidents Day weekend, we seized the opportunity," MGM distribution president Clark Woods said. "Having seen a lot of the film and how great it is going to play once it's finished, moving into a big holiday weekend is the right move."

UA marketing president Dennis Rice said UA execs are "delighted that MGM has agreed to hold the release until the very strong holiday weekend."

"Valkyrie" previously was moved from June to October to allow more time for additional footage to be shot. A big North Africa battle scene is scheduled to be lensed in May.

Sony moved the Steve Martin starrer "Pink Panther 2" in part to get out in front of a couple remaining Presidents Day openers -- Disney's romantic comedy "Confessions of a Shopaholic," an adaptation of a best-selling book expected to draw well in female demos, and the Paramount horror film "Friday the 13th," a likely youth magnet. Universal wanted a few more months completion time for its Benicio Del Toro-Anthony Hopkins starrer "Wolfman."

In the meantime, there's talk that the shift from fall to next winter gets UA's all-important "Valkyrie" out of the home stretch of the presidential election, a period when prospective moviegoers might be difficult to pry away from television newscasts.

"Lambs," while drawing mixed to positive reviews, was widely regarded as a poor first release for UA. It also was a setback for Cruise's marquee power amid heightened scrutiny after his fallout with Viacom topper Sumner Redstone and ouster from a production deal at Paramount.

"Valkyrie" is based on a true story involving a plot to assassinate Hitler. The cast also includes Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson.

UA also has several films in development, but it's unlikely any of those will be completed before February. The studio pulled the plug on one of its highest-profile projects -- Oliver Stone's My Lai Massacre drama "Pinkville" -- during the writers strike.