'Atlas Shrugged' heads to DVD this fall -- and a sequel won't be far behind
EXCLUSIVE: Atlas Shrugged: The Trilogy is still alive. The producers of the Ayn Rand adaptation will bring the first part of their planned series to home-entertainment platforms this fall, courtesy of a deal with 20th Century Fox, and expect to begin production on "Atlas Shrugged: Part 2" in September. They hope to bring the new film to theaters during the 2012 election season.
"Atlas Shrugged: Part 1," the low-budget adaptation of the first third of Rand's dystopian novel, grossed $4.6 million during its five-week theatrical run this spring. After the film drew scathing reviews, producer John Aglialoro said he was reconsidering whether to move forward with two sequels.
Now Aglialoro has resumed those efforts, according to producer Harmon Kaslow, and will devote all revenue from the release of "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1" to financing "Atlas Shrugged: Part 2."
"John has a much clearer perspective," Kaslow told 24 Frames. "He’s always wanted to have a studio level support for the film and I think feels that his effort in producing Part 1 has been validated by having the largest home video distributor in America aboard."
The producers are retaining the home entertainment rights, but are paying a distribution fee to Fox to release the film on DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download and video on demand, according to Kaslow. He said the deal was born of strategy, not necessity.
"What we discovered with the film is that it really doesn’t fit squarely into a lot of business models," said Kaslow. "We got incredible grass roots and community level support for the movie, but what we didn’t have was the polished marketing edge that the studios have perfected. Now we get to use their marketing, their fulfillment capacity. We think that makes more sense for us than mortgaging those rights off for a number."
Deals for TV and pay-TV airings are being negotiated, Kaslow said, and the producers have retained a foreign sales agent to secure international theatrical releases.
Aglialoro, the CEO of exercise-equipment company Cybex, spent $20 million to produce, distribute and market the movie, which was directed by first-timer Paul Johansson and stars Taylor Schilling (as railroad executive Dagny Taggart) and Grant Bowler (as steel magnate Hank Rearden).
Rand's novel, a touchstone work among many conservatives, takes place at an unspecified future time in which the U.S. is stuck in a depression and a mysterious phenomenon is causing the nation's leading industrialists to disappear.
Kaslow said the release of "Atlast Shrugged: Part 2" next year in theaters will be timed to capitalize on the national mood during the presidential election. "There will be a debate going on about the direction of the country, and a lot of the groups who have embraced Ayn Rand’s philosophies will be engaged," he said.
The filmmakers, who self-distributed and marketed "Atlas Shrugged: Part 1" as "the movie liberal Hollywood doesn't want you to see" may partner with a studio distributor this time around, Kaslow said.
"John appreciates the autonomy that came with spending his own money and doing his own theatrical release," Kaslow said. "But he realizes that the motion picture business is especially challenging and there are a number of things studios do better than anybody else."
Photo: Taylor Schilling plays heroine Dagny Taggart in "Atlas Shrugged Part 1." Credit: Rocky Mountain Pictures