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Producer Admits Atlas Shrugged: Part I Basically A Failure

After an opening weekend where it produced rather surprising gross receipts considering it had only premiered in 299 theaters, the theatrical release of the film adaption of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged has proven to be a disappointment. This past weekend, it expanded to and additional 166 theaters, yet saw its weekend receipts decline by nearly 50%, causing the film’s producer to admit that the entire project is now in jeopardy:

EXCLUSIVE: Twelve days after opening “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1,” the producer of the Ayn Rand adaptation said Tuesday that he is reconsidering his plans to make Parts 2 and 3 because of scathing reviews and flagging box office returns for the film.

“Critics, you won,” said John Aglialoro, the businessman who spent 18 years and more than $20 million of his own money to make, distribute and market “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1,” which covers the first third of Rand’s dystopian novel. “I’m having deep second thoughts on why I should do Part 2.”

“Atlas Shrugged” was the top-grossing limited release in its opening weekend, generating $1.7 million on 299 screens and earning a respectable $5,640 per screen. But the the box office dropped off 47% in the film’s second week in release even as “Atlas Shrugged” expanded to 425 screens, and the movie seemed to hold little appeal for audiences beyond the core group of Rand fans to whom it was marketed.

Aglialoro attributed the box office drop-off to “Atlas Shrugged’s” poor reviews. Only one major critic — Kyle Smith of the New York Post — gave “Atlas” a mixed-to-positive review, calling the film “more compelling than the average mass-produced studio item.” The movie has a dismal 7% fresh rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes thanks to critics like the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips, who said “Atlas” is “crushingly ordinary in every way.” Roger Ebert called the film “the most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault,” while Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers said the movie “sits there flapping on screen like a bludgeoned seal.”

“The New York Times gave us the most hateful review of all,” said Aglialoro, who also has a writing credit on the movie. “They didn’t cover it.”

(…)

Though the film has made only $3.1 million so far, Aglialoro said he believes he’ll recoup his investment after TV, DVD and other ancillary rights are sold. But he is backing off an earlier strategy to expand “Atlas” to 1,000 screens and reconsidering his plans to start production on a second film this fall.

“Why should I put up all of that money if the critics are coming in like lemmings?” Aglialoro said. “I’ll make my money back and I’ll make a profit, but do I wanna go and do two? Maybe I just wanna see my grandkids and go on strike.”

It’s true that there were many negative reviews from people who you’d expect to be turned off by the film’s message, such as Roger Ebert, but you can’t just chalk the bad reviews to ideological bias when you hear the same negative things from people who are sympathetic to Rand’s ideas like Megan McArdle and P.J. O’Rourke. On top of this, there were problems with this production from the beginning, and it was never quite clear that there would be mass appeal for a movie based on a novel that reads more like a philosophical treatise than a compelling work of fiction.

I haven’t seen the movie yet, mostly because the closest theater where it’s playing is almost an hour away from me. I’d like to see it, but at this point I guess I’ll just wait until it’s out on DVD.

A final thought. Aglialoro, like most producers with a failed production, blames the critics. However, isn’t this really just an example of the free market in action? Seems like it to me.

 

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Vast Variety says:

    In other words… the box office shrugged and said “eh”.

    “sits there flapping on screen like a bludgeoned seal.”

    That has to be the worst review of a movie I have ever seen before. lol

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  2. sam says:

    @Doug

    “A final thought. Aglialoro, like most producers with a failed production, blames the critics.”

    Says the Darryl Zanuck of Wingnutia:

    “The New York Times gave us the most hateful review of all,” said Aglialoro, who also has a writing credit on the movie. “They didn’t cover it.”

    I’ve heard of damning with faint praise, but this is damning with silence. Pretty amusing.

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  3. michael reynolds says:

    I would have thought a movie made from a boring, overlong, badly-written, unimaginative book about self-pitying whiners would have done really well. I’m surprised.

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  4. Well, that’s what you get for secondhanding.

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  5. That has to be the worst review of a movie I have ever seen before. lol

    Nah, there’s still Ebert’s infamous review of North:

    I hated this movie. Hated hated hated hated hated this movie. Hated it. Hated every simpering stupid vacant audience-insulting moment of it. Hated the sensibility that thought anyone would like it. Hated the implied insult to the audience by its belief that anyone would be entertained by it.

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  6. mantis says:

    Not to worry. Wingnut welfare will buy huge lots of DVDs to distribute for free to the rubes, the same way they do with conservative books.

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  7. ponce says:

    Plenty of “liberal” movies fail, too.

    It’s ironic that Hollywood is probably the most unforgivably capitalist industry in America.

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  8. Bleev K says:

    It’s ironic that Hollywood is probably the most unforgivably capitalist industry in America.

    It’s ironic only for people who believe Hollywood is liberal.

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  9. So he’s going to make money, but after two weeks it is a failure. Is that what you mean by the free market in action?

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  10. hey norm says:

    the big problem, which has gone unmentioned, is that paul ryan was busy getting his arse handed to him at town hall meetings, for abolishing medicare in order to pay for additional tax cuts to the rich, and wasn’t available to attend the paean to his adolescent hero and muse. had the boy wonder seen the film and given his blessing the entire republican house caucus would have flocked to the film like “lemmings”, in much the same way they flocked to vote for ryan’s budget without really knowing that it proposes abolishing medicare in order to pay for additional tax cuts to the rich.

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  11. Neil Hudelson says:

    So he’s going to make money, but after two weeks it is a failure. Is that what you mean by the free market in action?

    In the movie industry, yes. Plummeting box office receipts after only two weeks is a failure. It is very, very rare for a movie to rebound after diving and start making sales again–usually the previous flop has to be nominated for a major award (see: Michael Clayton).

    If 6 weeks from now Atlas Shrugged has risen a lot and is bringing in big receipts, I’ll be the first to say that it is a success.

    But judging by 99.9% of movies that have performed like it has, I’m not holding my breath.

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  12. mantis says:

    The writing was on the wall when Saturday receipts were about half of Friday receipts on opening weekend. That’s never a good sign. It means the die hard fans all came out for the opening night, and very few others are interested.

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  13. Wiley Stoner says:

    Doug, this is off topic, but maybe you should read Jennifer Rubin’s article in the Washington Post concerning Coke and DOMA. Seems coca cola really has not business interfering with the business of the law firm concerning who the get to represent. They have no right to privacy conerning communications with Coke because they were not seeking legal advise and the law firm in question should not have revealed to coke who it represents. There were some ethic violations there, you should have noted that, and the client, which was the U.S. House of Representatives will want to find out why the law firm in question accepted then refused to represent them. I believe the House has subpeona power. Maybe you can represent the law firm in question?

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  14. Scott says:

    I drove 60 miles each way to see it on opening day. It was actually better than I thought it would be, considering how they had to rush right into making it with apparent legal deadlines and funding issues. However, it always was a niche movie, and it was never marketed as anything but. Even its official Facebook page has been covered in “liberal this liberal that go tea party” crap for months. As for negative reaction even amongst fans, I’m not sure how much is justified, and how much is “The book was better” syndrome. But I had a few gripes myself.

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  15. Tlaloc says:

    However, isn’t this really just an example of the free market in action?

    That has to sting: one of the least marketable ideas is the idea that markets are the bet thing.

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  16. michael reynolds says:

    The question is: is it worse than Charlie Sheen’s live stage act?

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  17. Teresa says:

    A final thought. Aglialoro, like most producers with a failed production, blames the critics. However, isn’t this really just an example of the free market in action? Seems like it to me.

    I agree completely. This has NOTHING to do with the critics’ panning of the film. If a film makes lots of $$$, a sequel will be made, even if every critic in the country gives it half a star.

    I doubt the critics thought much of the many installments of “Saw,” for example.

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  18. giantslor says:

    Nobody listens to critics, so you can’t blame them.

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  19. […] know that the Atlas Shrugged premiere was two weeks ago and that the film’s producers have admitted it was a failure. We know that everybody has weighed in on the fact that, just as with the Founding Fathers meme, […]

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  20. Scott says:

    I wouldn’t have driven 6 miles let alone pay to see it. Maybe someday if it’s on TV. Do I have to change my name?

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