Actor, Wagner tubthump for 'Lions,' 'Valkyrie'

Cinema Expo went out with a bang as Tom Cruise made his first trip here for UA’s presentation to Euro exhibs while Universal took the limelight Thursday morning.

Cruise and Paula Wagner came to Amsterdam to introduce international exhibs to what Wagner described as the “newly rejuvenated” United Artists, and tubthump for the first two pics on the slate, “Lions for Lambs” and “Valkyrie.”

UA plans to release four to six films a year. Although the pair revealed no new projects, Wagner told exhibs to save a space for UA’s upcoming slate.

“We are working on a number of other wonderful projects so please set aside some playing time for us,” she said.Both Wagner and Cruise referred to UA’s history and promised to live up to it.

“The goals that we have and the kind of pictures that we are interested in making I hope will represent the great history of what United Artists has stood for,” Cruise said.

Wagner promised the new UA’s slate would be as varied as that of the old UA.

“We want to make a diverse slate of movies from action, thrillers to romantic comedies and everything in between,” she said.

Cruise spoke to delegates at length about helmer Bryan Singer’s “Valkyrie,” which begins principal photography in Germany in mid-July. Cruise plays the leader of a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler in 1944.

However, he made no reference to reports that permit holdups are because of his affiliation to Scientology.

“It is a picture that when I was reading it, my hands started sweating,” Cruise said. “It was incredibly exciting and compelling.”

The script was written by Christopher McQuarrie (“The Usual Suspects”) and newcomer Nathan Alexander. Cruise’s high praise for popular Dutch thesp Carice van Houten (“Black Book”), with whom he co-stars in “Valkyrie,” drew whoops of approval from local industryites.

Cruise envisages the pic will be in theaters in “one and a half years.”

The UA presentation closed with the first public screening of footage from “Lions for Lambs,” which is released worldwide on Nov. 9. Attendees were treated to 5½ minutes of footage from the Robert Redford helmed pic about the war on terror, which Wagner described as “a powerful and emotional story about courage, sacrifice and the human consequences of a complicated war that has divided our world.”

Cruise paid tribute to Redford. “He is a cinema icon and a legend and he has really changed cinema, the way pictures are looked at and released.”

In the morning, Universal Pictures Intl.’s first Cinema Expo presentation since the break-up of UIP went down a storm with Expo delegates.

Sensing Expo aud’s fatigue with long speeches by day four of the confab, UPI brass Duncan Clark and David Kosse let the product do the talking.

Generating the most buzz at the RAI center was a 10-minute preview of exclusive footage from Ridley’s Scott gritty 1970s-set drugs crimer “American Gangster.” The pic is based on the true story of New York drug dealer Frank Lucas (played by Denzel Washington) and the cop (Russell Crowe) who pursues him.

Working Title’s Venice-opener “Atonement,” which stars Keira Knightley opposite James McAvoy, also went down well with delegates. Universal had no clips to show of Russian Timur Bekmambetov’s May release “Wanted,” about a gang of assassins, but talked up helmer’s whammo box office success on home turf with “Day Watch.”

Sneaks of “The Bourne Ultimatum” drew predictable interest. UPI flagged up the box office potential of the latest installment in the franchise, which has banked more than $500 million worldwide.

And Saudi Arabia-set terrorism thriller “The Kingdom” also set pulses racing. The Jamie Foxx starrer about an elite FBI team sent to investigate the bombing of a U.S. facility struck a chord due to its contemporariness.

Reel closed with a sneak look at “Elizabeth” sequel “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” which will open the Toronto Film Festival.

Confab closed Thursday evening with a dinner awards bash hosted by Nielsen EDI.

Golden Reel awards for films that earned more than $100 million at the international box office last year were dished out to 29 films distributed by Constantin-Summit, Paramount Pictures Intl., Sony Pictures Releasing Intl., Twentieth Century Fox Intl., Universal Pictures Intl., Walt Disney Studios Intl. and Warner Bros. Sony and WB came out on top with six reels apiece.

Special Platinum Reel awards were served to the three films that crossed $500 million overseas: “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End,” “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “Spider-Man 3.”

Expo organizers report that attendance for this edition is up 10% on the 1,250 delegates who registered in 2006.

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