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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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The free market has spoken.

"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" was also savaged by critics, but still managed to make $832 million at the box office.

The free market has obviously found Aglialoro's film wanting. Not just theater goers, but investors as well, as Aglialoro was ultimately forced to fund this low budget film out of his own pocket.

Despite her sometimes egregious flaws, I am a long-time admirer of Ayn Rand. I saw things a long-time admirer would want to see in this movie, but I saw some things no viewer wants to see in any film.

The running of the John Galt train through Colorado visually captures—more than I thought was possible—the glory that Rand saw in human intelligence. That train ride is preceded by some nice quiet shots of railroad track made of Reardon steel. You get the feeling that the track itself is confident and ready, calmly waiting for its assigned task.

There is very real chemistry between Dagny Taggart and Hank Reardon (it’s one of the best things about the film). Grant Bowler is an inspired choice as Reardon; he conveys, with little dialogue, much of the internal conflict of his character. Taylor Schilling has the perfectly direct eyes that you want Dagny to have. Graham Beckel is a terrific Ellis Wyatt—by himself, he saves entire scenes.

But the bad things in this movie are very bad indeed. First, there are the buffoonish bad guys. They act and look outlandishly slimy (think Snidely Whiplash), are incapable of any independent thought, and (even though it is not shown in the film) are awfully bad at sex. Watch the villains in this movie and you think, oh hell, anybody with any brains whatsoever could beat these wimps. My god, they’re pathetic.

The movie has some serious structural flaws. The best moments of the film are sandwiched between long stretches of episodic, dead time in which familiar scenes of the novel are shot in a pedestrian and perfunctory manner. Some scenes feel as if they are an outline of a larger scene that was never made. This leaves the inherent passion of the movie uncomfortably detached at times. And for all the considerable chemistry between Schilling and Bowler, the sex scene between them is an embarrassing cliché of camera movement.

Although John Galt keeps showing up, in shadow, he feels like a back-alley add-on. Worse, Francisco D'Anconia feels like an add-on too. This is an omission not easy to forgive. His seeming dissolution of his own talent is one of the more intriguing parts of the novel. Here, it is shown as simple dissolution so you don’t care enough to think about why it is happening.

The first five minutes is a particular mess, hurriedly and clumsily piling on too many details in an attempt to establish the setting. Viewers not familiar with the novel are likely to be confused by the opening because they will not have all the background material the book provides the reader on the collective state. This is a shame because however wrong Rand was in discerning the causes of a collective state, she was masterly at describing its horrors.

Audiences shrugged all over the country

Can he skip part two and go straight to part 3?
Does he have the guts to put Dagny Taggart enjoying her own rape on the screen followed by the extended nude electrical torture of John Galt? Its in the book folks. No way to PG13 it.

It might have to do with the fact that Ayn Rand was a despicable person in more ways than one

The irony here is that this movie is designed as a passionate defense of the free market, yet it is itself a victim of the free market. Basically, John Aglialoro spent a whole bunch of money to create a bad movie with bad acting, bad writing and bad production, one that will probably sweep the Razzies. But because it was such a piece of junk, hardly anyone came to see it, and those who did shredded it.

These free-market types should realize that if you want to compete, you have to make a competitive product.

I would invest in Part 2 and part 3.

Atlas Flopped...`quelle surprise!

Most thinking people I know got over Ayn Rand's childish "ME ME ME" faux philosophy around the same time the acne cleared up.

I'm sure Mr. Aglialoro wil make his money back as right wing "think" tanks buy up the DVD in bulk to give away free at their conventions in a classic display of "Wingnut Welfare."

A book about a cold, arrogant, megalomaniac who repeatedly and brutally quasi-rapes his "love" interest written by hypocritical sociopath...and It didn't translate to the screen...funny that.

I have not seen the movie and probably will not - I'd rather read the book. All those that want to see parts two and three - I suggest you send Mr. Aglioloro some bucks - maybe he could sell stock? He also needs to find someone that knows how to market his wares.

Sounds like some journolist nonsense to me...

Bad book, bad movie. How ironic that the holy bible of free-marketers gets a cold shoulder from the very economic system it endorses.

Yes, it's the critics fault his crappy movie bombed. Because critical pans always doom box office receipts. Like with the Tranformers movies for example. The invisible hand of the market always works, except when it works against Galtian supermen. You just can't parody these clowns.

That movie was treated unfairly. It's very accurate to the book. Even more so than the 1949 Fountainhead movie that was created with Ayn Rand as a member of the production staff. I'm glad they took the risk of doing it in multiple parts because had they tried to stuff Atlas Shrugged into a two hour movie it would've been as bad as the 1984 Dune movie. Which was hard to understand even if you've read the book. I think the movie was faithful to it's source material. The casting was excellent considering they used entirely unknown actors. And the bulk of the flaws in the movie are flaws inherent in Ayn Rand's book. Some of my conservative friends didn't see it because it recieved such poor reviews which is a shame because it wasn't as bad as they say. You wonder if the reviews are more of an attack on the independent film industry than the film itself. One could draw parallels between the way critics are trashing Atlas Shrugged and the way Hank Reardon's new metal was unfairly trashed in the movie. If this isn't a good movie than Atlas Shrugged shouldn't have been made into a movie because I don't think anyone will ever make a better one than this. Anyways that's quite enough rambling for now.

It is the critics who wish to fool the public as they are afraid of individual thought and choice and decision making. I live for myself and my love ones and not some critic who can not understand that the bureauocracy DOES NOT MAKE ANYTHING NOR DO THEY PROVIDE ANYTHING BUT MOOKERY AND INSULT. This is their way, the flock, the lemin, the cattle who feed from someone else's hard work and endeavors.

I myself am before anything else am an objective contrarian. I live for myself and no other. I seek for myself and no other and what I seek is seen by the mediocre and mullets of the man as greed and it is they who are greedy and wish to enslave eveyone in their ideal. Social engineering has never improved mankind. Their efforts of criticism only vaccume up free thought, free will and self determination. They have broken the covenant between my and God.

Lead on with the truth, pursue the quest to creat and you and all of us who believe in those values expressed above will be your shield and banner carriers.

John Galt live as I John Stever private citizen of these United States does live.

It is vital to make parts 2 and 3! The people who gave part 1 a bad review didn't get the massage at all!

IF John Aglialoro has actually 'quit' after two weeks of Internet and pulp chatter - then he does not deserve either success or the rights to the film.
Signed, Francisco D'Anconia - Who KNOWS who John Galt is.

Actually its now 9% “fresh” according to the ‘critics’.

BUT ITS ALSO 85% FRESH according to the USER reviews on the rottentomatoes website.

Why is there such a difference where the critics all give it 1/10 and the public gives it a 8.5/10? Could it be the professional reviewers are all left wing liberal hacks?

I have not seen a movie in a theater in many years.
I got so emotional in 10 minutes, I wasn't sure I could watch it all the way through. This movie is a bargain at any price. Even if parts 2 and 3 never get made, I was
deeply moved and will watch it again and again.


Thank God this bombed!!!

No doubt that in present day America... any story favoring 100 percent capitalism without rules and regs to stop rampant corporate greed...is going to fail.

This garbage bombed even more so, because it proves that access to finances and distribution does not a movie producer or creative talent make.

I saw the movie for a review gig.
Acting or excuse for it was lame.
Director didn't know where to put a camera.
I won't even talk about the editing or lack of it.
Production values were muddling to below average.

And guess what?
It has nothing to do with the budget!!!
Or stars!!
Imagine that!!!

It has everything to do with everyone these days thinking they can make a great movie. Or write one. Or direct one. Or act.

And a lot of folks can't.

Because they don't take the trade, the craft and the art of storytelling overall, regardless of the form, seriously.

If you're going to throw money into making a movie and don't care at all about connecting with the audience -- go make porn.


I watched the movie and enjoyed every move of it. I will buy the DVD when It comes available to watch it again with friends who don't have theater play near by.

Haven't seen it yet, but plan to soon. I think maybe this article is a little skewed to the left, I read another review with the producer, where he was quoted as saying that the Hollywood reviewer hit squad multiplied his resolve to produce parts 2 and 3. A great and important book"Atlas Shrugged" . It is exactly the antidote to the poison in today's dishonest intellectual climate.
"The strongest force in the world is an Idea who's time has come"

"Atlas Shrugged: Part I" powerfully captures the subliminal and pervasive shadow world which surrounds us all. This world, which Ayn Rand so intimately understood, still seeks to envelop, enslave and suppress the uniqueness of our individual human spirits; it is not a science fiction myth, but a functioning reality coordinated by the people we see as our brothers, sisters and leaders. As the shadow of modern technology moves ever nearer to controlling our lives, the shadow of impending evil domination becomes the reality clearly envisioned by Ayn Rand.

Just as David approached Goliath with a sling and stone, John Aglialoro presents the presence of this shadow world in modern times and brings it into a light by which it can be easily observed for the evil it is. The evil is not unbeatable, but the victory must be preceeded by effort and courage.

This movie is top-quality all the way. The actors in "Atlas Shrugged: Part I" are steadfast and powerful in their individual portrayals and collective effect. Each scene is produced with state-of-the-art reality, heart pounding excitement, vivid color and special effects. As the impending shadow of evil lurks ever nearer, we find ourselves rising in courage to stand beside Dagna and Mr. Reardon. But, most of all, the film is not only a magnificent tribute to the composition of Ayn Rand, but a stimulus for individual awareness and action.

It is my hope that Mr. Aglialoro will continue with Parts II and III of "Atlas Shrugged". There are millions like me who wouldn't even have known the film was showing unless we chanced upon it at the bottom of a newspaper page or happened to see the review of a salaciously unfavorable left-wing critic, casting mocking aspersions upon all of those who stand in opposition of the impending shadow of the One World Order.

Your work is needed, Mr. Aglialoro...and I predict it will become a classic to all of those who see uneven odds before them.

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