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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


Comments () | Archives (223)

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Nobody will be able to keep a good work from public adulation and respect-----it may take a little time like the book it will catch on and go on to do wonders.

There are lots of fans still to be reached, just waiting to be organized. John, don't give up. Contact me if you like!

"C'mon. Do you really believe what's printed in the LA Times? This is what the ultra liberals at the paper WANT you to believe. Open your own eyes and make your own decisions."

I've opened my eyes and decided you're not very bright.

Now that I don't have to drive a bazillion miles to see the film -- I saw it.

I'll be going to see it again tomorrow.

Funny how he's implying that critics have united in some kind of conspiracy against this movie. The film simply sucks.

This guy needs to go back to making exercise equipment.

Wesley Mouch also just called me and he wants to go on strike. What a whiner and sore loser this director turned out to be! How about the possibility that the movie was lousy? Brings bad name to Atlas Shrugged itself.

Well, I just saw the movie a few hours ago (Tuesday 04/26). I loved it, and I hope he makes parts 2 and 3. I will go see them, and I will definitely want to own a set of the DVDs.

It was a great movie, and shame on all that think it is simply a tea party view. How about George Orwell. Ayn Rand would be a liberal freak? I think not......

Lol, he is just mad people saw Scream 4 instead.

Okay, so the critics didn't like Atlas Shrugged: Part 1. So what? The critics didn't like the novel the movie was based on, either. But the novel has a fan base going back half a century and gave the movie a not-bad opening weekend, and lots of good word of mouth to build on. But John Aglialoro's background is as a fitness equipment mogul and a professional poker player. Atlas Shrugged was his first time producing a movie. And you know what? When you're expanding screens, you're supposed to ADVERTISE.

Movies told us there's no crying in baseball. There's no crying in movies, either. Except, that is, at award ceremonies and when you're explaining your recent arrest.

Atlas Shrugged isn't a story about quitting. It's a story about strategy. You have a product the earlier adopters liked and need to cross the chasm to the mass audience.


You don't need to go and see this movie. The movie is playing every day in local, state, and US government. Only the names and faces have changed.
I liked the book and the movie.

So many people are suffering in this economy because of the greed if rich people. I don't think anyone wants to see a film where rich people whine that everyone is picking on them.

now he wants to make a movie about poker? fat chance he will get any sort of baking for that with his track record of 1 and only film which tanked. Yeah, he's bankable. :rolleyes:

By every definition of the word, his movie flopped. No matter how you slice and dice that, that is reality. Perhaps, he should go back to selling gym equipment.

I am sorry to see you trying to impress the critics, John. They are absolutely a bunch of sheep. They follow each others opinions and are like Mouch.

It was a very poorly made film and that is why it bombed. Contrast it to the novel, as the average review was not merely negative but very hostile. Yet the novel is an enormous commercial success: it is a top-ranked book at Amazon.com five decades after its debut. The reason is that the novel is a masterful work of art and the critics couldn't silence the recommendations of its readers. If "Atlas" the film were any good, it would have been a sleeper success, for sure, tapping on the goodwill of millions of the novel's fans.

How completely childish can one adult be. Rather than admit he produced a poor quality product, vanity niche film he blames others.

And follows with, I'm going on strike. Translated, I'm putting my toys in my toy box and will play in another playground.

Aglioloro should read what Rand had to put up with for The Fountainhead to finally find its audience. He is giving up far too easily.

you knew the corporate establishment don't like capitalist before you made the movie. if you won't finish the movie then sell the rights to someone who will. no excuses.

I wonder how many of those who posted comments actually read the book or watched the film. It seems many are only parroting what others had written or said. They allow other people to think for them. How sad!

The dark and bitter character who was Ms. Rand would have found the producer weak, and slammed him for his second thoughts -- no matter how well founded they may be. Looks like a no-win situation. It's a shame really, "Atlas Shrugged", set in the era it was written and stripped of the repetitive polemic, would have made for something extraordinary.

I'll be seeing the movie this weekend for the 4th time. I come out of it feeling stronger and more optimistic -- difficult to do in today's America. The Left has always hated Rand, because she gives capitalists decent arguments against socialism, and something to believe in. I read Atlas Shrugged when I was 27, and by page 50, I remember thinking that this was like no other book I had ever read. I think if Aglialoro simply opened up an account for donations to fund Atlas Part 2, he would quickly rack up a million. I want to see Parts 2 & 3 with the same actors. Loved Grant Bowler, and would hate to see Taylor Schilling replaced with someone else now.

It is admittedly fascinating to witness Mr. Aglialoro's attempts to turn the judgment of the Free Market into something less...well...Objective.

Films can be awful and make a lot of money (see: Transformers 2) or they can be great and make very little money (see: Brothers Bloom). Either way, critical reaction to a film has a near-negligible effect on most films' financial prospects.

They should have had more dialogue from the book so as to stay true to the book. They needed to include more of the philosophy in the movie as well. I thought it could be a much much better movie if it wasn't such a rush job and maybe 20 to 30 minutes longer. It's a tough book to adapt to the big screen. I'm thinking a mini-series would be better. But, it has increased sales of Atlas Shrugged and other of Ayn Rand's non-fiction books like The Virtue of Selfishness.

Do you know why Atlas shrugged??? The "invisible hand" was giving him a prostrate examination.

Props to Scott for his spot-on comment. Gosh, isn't it funny that the maker of a conservative message film would blame others for the film's shortcomings. And I thought only whiny libruls did that ...
And, sorry, but Brian's post is a prime of example of that victimology.

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