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'Atlas Shrugged' producer: 'Critics, you won.' He's going 'on strike.'

April 26, 2011 |  5:16 pm

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."

The novel, a sacred text among many conservatives for Rand's passionate defense of capitalism, takes place at an unspecified future time in which the U.S. is mired in a deep depression and a mysterious phenomenon is causing the nation's leading industrialists to disappear or "strike."

Aglialoro's 97-minute adaptation is directed by first-timer Paul Johansson and stars little-known TV actors Taylor Schilling (as railroad executive Dagny Taggart) and Grant Bowler (as steel magnate Hank Rearden).

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."

Aglialoro, who is chief executive of the exercise equipment manufacturer Cybex, said he is not completely finished with Hollywood, however. An avid poker player who won the U.S. Poker Championship in 2004, he has a dramatic script called "Poker Room" in development. "Maybe the critics will be kinder to that one," he said.


Atlas Shrugged finally comes to the screen, albeit in chunks

-- Rebecca Keegan


Photo: Taylor Schilling plays heroine Dagny Taggart in "Atlas Shrugged Part 1." Credit: Rocky Mountain Pictures


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To my surprise, I quite enjoyed Atlas Shrugged. Although the story is a hymn to the over dog, this low-budget movie has underdog appeal. I soon started to root for the plucky filmmakers to pull off their high-wire act of making a movie that’s distinctive—not distinguished, but still very 1957 in texture—without having anywhere near enough of the dollars that Rand idolized.

Persons familiar with the history of the Star Trek movie franchise know that the first movie turned a profit solely on the huge fan base despite the fans' scathing reviews of the movie itself. Their biggest complaint involved the lack of soul of the film. It proved bland, sterile, and "safe" and lacked the provocative ideas and colorful dialogue and characterizations of the series that made it so appealing to so many.

The second movie project brought on board Harve Bennett, an experienced television producer with numerous successes under his belt such as The Six Million Dollar Man. Bennett knew how to squeeze three movies out of the budget of one based on his shortcuts learned in the television industry. More importantly, since he had zero experience with the classic series and had never seen any of the shows, he took the time to watch the entire series in a personal "viewing marathon" before proceeding with the next movie. This marathon made the "Space Seed" story jump from the batch as a strong candidate for movie material.

Next, he brought a talented and experienced young film writer and director, Nicholas Meyer, onto the team to write a script. Bennett, Meyer, and other backers of the new movie retreated to create an effective story that revitalized the qualities that gave the series its initial draw. In addition, Meyer consulted with the primary actors to assure that his lines resonated with their years of experience in character development. DeForest Kelley, for instance, absolutely insisted on inserting a line in the film to convey his anticipated irascible response.

In short, Bennett single-handedly rescued a franchise from potential disaster with key decisions regarding story, script, direction, and budget. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan became a critical and commercial blockbuster. It led to numerous sequels and eventually several new television series.

Although I border on comparing apples to oranges here, I still see this story as offering many lessons for Parts II and III of Atlas Shrugged, especially in terms of script and the characterizations that arise from it. One reason the novel remains a powerful draw rests in its provocative dialogue. I sincerely hope the next two movies engage much more in this provocation. The Golden Compass, a film based on a novel I have never read, reportedly "sanitized" the controversial atheistic message. This annoyed fans and bored non-fans. I hope the screenwriters for this movie learn from their own and others' mistakes.

Listen to all you retarted liberals trashing a movie you haven't seen and a book you haven't read. I suppose the thought that people should be allowed to keep the fruits of their own labor offends you because you're too stupid or lazy to earn money on your own.

I hope he won't give into liberal pressure and will make all three movies, and that Americans will wake up to the fact that socialism is destroying America. We'll soon go the way of communist russia and the millions who were starved to death by Stalin.

What a chump!!
If Aglialoro is going to let a bunch of progressive ultra left hack reveiwer opinions stop him from bringing the rest of the story to the big screen then obviously the wrong man made this film if he can't muster anymore resove than this.

Aglialoro should have expected this beforehand and had a plan to counter the what was bound to be bad reviews coming from the left solely for political reasons regardles of the films quality or lack there of. When you can't even muster up a few fading stars to act in the movie, he should have known what the game was.

Progressives and ultra left Liberals will stop at nothing to discredit anything they disagree with, including lying, colusion and vilafying, etc (the Saul Alinski plan). If this man cannot pull up his skirt and take a few bad reviews from these Progressive brown nosers and do some decent marketing then he deserves to fail. It's just unfortunate for those who wanted this book to come to life in a respectable way on film.

Just my 2 cents worth.

As usual you do not report the whole picture. The critics damned the movie but what you failed to report was that the audience loved it and gave it 87% approval.

Also it had the third largest per screen average the week that it opened.

Journalism? Methinks not.

"Critics, you won"... umm, I don't think so. Critics lost two hours of their lives, plus time spent having to contemplate this sadistic serial killer William Hickman inspired mess. No winners here...

Wait, the director is "Fitness Partner of The Biggest Loser", oh irony, you win again.

I would definitely support a film like this.

The newspapers in liberal Ann Arbor are not running ads for which theatre's are holding shows, so I have to go on line. It's really hard to find it.

Keep talking up the movie and don't despair!


John Aglialoro is a smarter marketeer than you all expect...controversy is what sells, and this article will certainly stir up the attention!

The movie is stunningly well-made, acted, and perhaps a bit too sophisticated / subtle for the average (and oh how average) movie reviewer whose lexicon is Hollywood.

Since when do we 21st century types take the word of professional reviewers? See for yourself. Ask your friends, your Twitter and FB buddies. Worth seeing? Most definitely. Even if the message isn't obvious to you (and alas, it won't be to all)... it is a beautiful film.

John Agilialoro do not go on strike free enterprise needs you. As a small businessman who sticks up for free enterprise I loved your movie. We applauded at the end of it. Ms. Rand and you really spoke too me and made me feel that small business and myself are not alone in spreading the word to politicians to unleash us and let us do what we do take a risk and on the way create jobs. John A. you are the best. From Tommy Brann at my restaurant right now working If I can help get a hold of me I live in Grand Rapids Michigan and own a restaurant called Branns.

I have been an AS fan for a few decades and was always surprised that it had not been made into a film. I saw the first showing on the first day and thoroughly enjoyed the film. I recommended it to everyone I ran into since 4/15. Not one of those people, even the long time AS fans, had heard that the film was in theaters. Maybe advertising actually still works better than the web approach taken by Rocky Mountain Pictures.

I don't think the producer was prepared for all of the negative press. Though I think knowing that it took him 18 years to get the film made was a clue that no one was interested.

In the theater the kids cleaning walked by me and to each other (three kids) one said 'what is atlas shrugged about?' a co-worker said 'I don't know'.

Part of the problem is the lack of advertising. I think another is if you have read the book you expect it to follow the story line of the book exactly. We all know that is not possible. I thought the movie helped to explain some of the missing parts of the book and it was well done.

I wonder how many people that are reviewing the movie actually read the book. Perhaps their peers gave them their opinions of the book never having read it!

I find many people hate "Atlas Shrugged" with out ever reading it. They are opinionated, pushy, loud and when I ask "when did you read the book?" and press it, they then admit they never read it or started the book and couldn't get past the first chapter. I believe this is the case of those interviewing the book, though I personally find I never agree with them.

If the money is recouped then hopefully the producer invests in the second part and then the 3rd. It would be a shame to stop now.

I saw the movie and was entertained. I will see it again.

He need investors? I'll throw in $100!

I say "great job!" loved the actors, and give it a Thumbs Up!

striker 1,234,567

Mr. Aglialoro, I can't believe that you will back off from finishing the movie in parts 2 & 3 because of critics? Do you not remember the book your movie is based on? This is classic looters behavior. You must finish the work, it is the most important work of the century for the sake of millions of people and the future of America.

John should sell $10 stock certificate (I would frame it and hang it on my office wall) for movie #2 much like the Green Bay Packers did or do.

I hope Mr. Aglialoro will reconsider, and if not, I hope he will sell the rights to someone who will produce parts 2 & 3. Movie critics are a dime a dozen. If they knew anything about movies they'd be making them instead of criticizing them. I thought the movie was fantastic, and I've sent at least 100 people to see it who LOVED it. This movie is destined to become a cult classic, and the residuals will be substantial. Mr. Aglialoro---please finish what you started. This movie is not just another film. It's a story that has the power to save America from becoming a nanny state of non-producers. And if you decide to sell the rights, please Google me and contact my office. I'm interested. But no matter what you decide, thank you for making an outstanding movie and bringing Ayn Rands brilliance to the big screen.

John, Have you thought about an IPO to raise the cash?

Please complete the project. Loved the film. Will buy the DVD. My wife, who is non-political said she was glad she saw it. To hell with the critics!

Movie was awesome! The critics can take a flying leap as far as I'm concerned. Look at the numbers on Rotten Tomatoes - 7% approval by the critics BUT 85 % approval by movie goers!!! That is all you need to know - movie critics are nothing but mouthpieces for the MSM. Please make parts 2 and 3. I want to own all three parts on DVD.

Hello, Im sad to hear the movie is doing so poor in theaters. I will buy all three DVDs so do make them, I will also buy them in gift sets to give to family and all my friends for Christmas, so yeah, Ill buy 10 sets. Im sure there are plenty like me out there. I have never read the bool, though the movie makes me wish I had the time to read this massive book, but I do have to work so..... But I loved the movie, the story and view of the new train at 250 mph. sad the aviation biz is dead, is what I do, I build Aircraft for Boeing. Good job in the story. thank you, M

I saw the movie opening weekend. I don't think the LA Times reporter did. The movie is not set at some unspecified point in the future. It starts in 2016. It's on the screen! The movie was not great, but far above the average movie fare put out by the big studios. The problem is that the movie was only promoted through "viral" marketing. You have to give that some time to build. They needed an ad campaign that didn't focus on Ayn Rand and her ideas, but on the story and how it relates to things happening right now. A good PR and ad campaign could have created a huge buzz and gotten more people into theaters. I hope they make part two and hire a brilliant ad agency to promote it. Who goes to movies, young people! Make it appeal to them in the promotion.

How many of these critics have actually read Atlas Shrugged? Maybe the "Cliff Notes/Sparks", but never the entire novel. Shoot, it's over 1,000 pages long. So called journalists can't even check facts anymore, they just regurgitate what is spoon fed to them from special interest-groups and if it fits their political objective then they print. The college I know that is even reading Atlas Shrugged is Loyola Maramount in Los Angeles. Everyone google atlas shrugged and you can buy a bumper sticker that says Galt/Taggert 2012. If they have truly read the book they will snicker. Most everyone I know asks me "who are they?". Even the critics of Rush Limbaugh have never really listened to his show. You may not like him, but he's thought provoking, just like Ms. Rand. Julie in Carlsbad, CA

Rand's novel was also panned or ignored by the critics. It went on to sell successfully by word of mouth and continues to do so. Secondary markets as alluded to - TV and DVD sales - may carry the day yet. Conservative talk show personalities and web sites can help spread the word further. Current government decisions mirror the book, and that should be an excellent talking point [examples: The national Labor Relations Board's decision to discourage Boeing from moving a plant to South Carolina from union-friendly Washington; any allusion to bailing out California].

I drove 80 miles [one-way] to see it the first time [with wife and 15 y/o son]. My wife and I saw it locally the second time, when it came on board in my town. Enjoyed it both times, and, surprisingly, even more the second time. My brother also saw it twice and liked it too. I read the book twice. None of the others read the book. The film spoke to all of us. I appreciate the conservation of Rand's philosophical views. The worst thing that could have happened would have been a big-studio, big-star, big budget, big-profit film that finessed the story line by making Mouch the commi-hero who saved the world from John Galt, the greedy capitalist "destroyer." I applaud Mr. Aglialoro for keeping faith with Rand. He is a Randian hero too - his money; his risk; hopefully, his pre-tax pay-off.

I drove 80 miles [one-way] to see it the first time [with wife and 15 y/o son]. My wife and I saw it locally the second time, when it came on board in my town. Enjoyed it both times, and, surprisingly, even more the second time. My brother also saw it twice and liked it too. I read the book twice. None of the others read the book. The film spoke to all of us. I appreciate the conservation of Rand's philosophical views. The worst thing that could have happened would have been a big-studio, big-star, big budget, big-profit film that finessed the story line by making Mouch the commi-hero who saved the world from John Galt, the greedy capitalist "destroyer." I applaud Mr. Aglialoro for keeping faith with Rand. He is a Randian hero too - his money; his risk; hopefully, his pre-tax pay-off.

I re-read the book & loved the movie.
Perhaps if he had cast Muckhole Moore as Wesley Mouch.
Or if he could get Muckhole to stop "Wrestling Money from Rich Americans"
long enough to get a fair review the ticket sales would improve...

Right, & santa claus, the easter bunny & the tooth fairy were laws students of "Professor Obama
The Detroit Lions will win the Superbowl.....

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