Tom Cruise, Valkyrie

Phil Bray/MGM

Tom Cruise may be coming to a theater near you sooner than you think.

Valkyrie, Cruise's upcoming flick about the real-life failed attempt by high-ranking German officers to assassinate Adolf Hitler, has been screen-tested for regular ol' moviegoers in Nevada, I'm hearing.

The audiences weren't aware of what they would be seeing because they had been blindly solicited to attend a free movie at their local multiplex.

In other words, a test screening could be happening in your neighborhood sometime soon (except, of course, if you live in major cities like Los Angeles or New York, where studios rarely test because audiences in those areas tend to be much more critical and not exactly in tune with the all-important Middle America moviegoers).

I'm told most of the audiences were really diggin' the flick. "They liked it," a source says. "Most people said it was a suspense thriller."

As you may have heard, the Bryan Singer-directed flick, which also includes Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson, has been hit with some bad buzz because its original June 2008 release date has been moved at least three times.

But in the end, the movie will be released Dec. 26, a date traditionally reserved for films believed be good enough to scoop up some awards.

An Industry awards-campaign veteran explains, "Usually, any movie like Valkyrie that's released at that time, they think they have a shot at an Oscar. It's hard to tell because of everything surrounding Valkyrie, but Tom could be feeling it will do well during awards season."

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