God damn, we love writing about “Atlas Shrugged.” Even more than “Twilight“-related stories, or the persistent commenter who insists that Scarlett Johansson is the product of stolen DNA, nothing brings out the frothing-at-the-mouth zealots like stories about the long-awaited, independently-produced adaptation of Ayn Rand‘s magnum opus. Self-financed and distributed by millionaire businessman John Aglialoro, the film was rushed into production to prevent the rights from lapsing, with a decidedly D-list cast and crew, but it did have relevance on its side: with the Tea Party movement, who are perhaps more in step with Rand’s beliefs than any major political movement in decades sweeping the nation, could the film find itself becoming a runaway hit? Would we spend the next few years writing about the second and third installments of Aglialoro’s dream project?
Not so much. Despite our commenters predicting that “This movie and this idea will grow and grow like a Tsunami” and that “This movie will break records… for years… remember “Star Wars“?,” the film managed a decent enough limited opening a few weeks back picking up $1.7 million at around 300 locations, but this past weekend, it took a hefty 50% drop, despite adding more than 150 screens to its count suggesting that the rails had already run out on the film’s commercial prospects.
And it’s fair to say the film’s hefty drop was down to the critics — “Atlas Shrugged Pt. 1” managed only a 7% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with most critics happy to tear the film a new asshole. Even Jeff Otto, who reviewed the film for us, who took a far more impartial look at the film that this writer could have managed, gave it a rare ‘F’ grade, calling it “an aimless, amateurish and, more to the point, stone cold boring piece of drivel.” All in all, it seems to mean that Aglialoro won’t push ahead with his plans to film the rest of the book.
24 Frames talked to the producer, who told them “Critics, you won. I’m having deep second thoughts on why I should do Part 2… Why should I put up all of that money if the critics are coming like lemmings? 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.” A strike? Now that’s something that Rand would certainly have approved of. No one loved the labor movement more than she did.
As Aglialoro suggests, he won’t lose money on it — the film was produced far too cheaply for that — but it seems that the effort involved, the low profit margins, and the critical brickbats slung at the film, have sapped his desire to get Rand’s work on screens. So, a victory for our liberal media elite conspiracy! Oh, shit, uh, we mean, uh… Look over there, there’s evidence of Barack Obama faking his birth certificate!
In reality, “Atlas Shrugged Pt. 1” was, ironically, crushed at the free market — the film had every chance of being a crossover hit, but it was marketed exclusively at a niche audience of Tea Party types, who either didn’t bother to show up, or don’t exist in sizable enough numbers to sustain a film like this. Essentially, it’s the “Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World” of Objectivist thinking.
Aglialoro isn’t done with movies yet — he’s developing a gambling script called “Poker Room,” and we wish him all the best with it. And maybe things will turn around, and healthy DVD sales will see a greenlight of “Atlas Shrugged Pt. 2” down the line. We hear Tommy Wiseau might be available to direct. For the moment, we’ll leave the last word to commenter “Robert,” who suggested that our negative view of the quality of the film’s trailer was way off — “As for the film, I think you’re predictions of its failure will prove about as accurate as two years of predictions of the failure and collapse of the Tea Party movement.” Fingers crossed, then!