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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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Dude's going to make up his money many times over on DVD and PPV.

The real way to go on strike would be to go ahead and make 2 and 3 and make them better. Spending a few bucks on TV advertising probably wouldn't have hurt, either.

For a review of Rand and information on people using Libertarian tools, please see http://www.Libertarian-international.org

Looks like he is trying to generate more buzz about the film. If he wanted to attract more attention he should try marketing the movie the old fashion -traditional way on television with trailer clips. That's how Nicholas Cage manages to get me to watch his movies SNARK.

It seems the producer want's to market his low budget movie by word of mouth and the internet. Even Mel Gibson who marketed, Passion of the Christ, bought television spots. Perhaps movie sales will pick up when it makes it to DVD.

You have to spend money to make money but I doubt a millionaire rated number 10 of the top 25 wealthiest execs by CNN Money, needs that explained to him.

Given that unlike Mel Gibson, this movie had no high profile celebrity name attached to it or built in Evangelical base following. Mr Aglialoro, could have compensated with a wide saturation media marketing campaign. In for penny in for pound.

I couldn't finish the book, so I can hardly blame him for not finishing the movie.

I, for one, loved the film, and went to buy the book after seeing part 1, so that I can determine where the rest of the story goes. I predict that, despite the slow start, this movie will have legs that propel it for many years to come. That will be more true if we can get parts 2 and 3 on film, too.

As for critics - remember that they overwhelmingly hated Star Wars when it first came out, too.

Loved the movie. It was true to the book and reflects what we see happening in our day. I hope he changes his mind and makes parts 2 and 3. Who cares what critics say? They generally hate anything the public appreciates. Perhaps the low turnout is due to lack of broad advertising?

The market has spoken: Ayn Rand both wrote crap and inspires fervent mediocrity, her overwrought bodice-rippers only held to as "philosophy" by a tiny, trust-fund-endowed minority of Americans in spite of well-monied campaigns to tell Americans they think otherwise — because being told what you think and castigated as subhuman waste for the slightest dissent from the dutifully dictated dogma is the ultimate liberty.

To say the market is wrong is to say Ayn Rand is wrong, and Ayn Rand is NEVER wrong, so she and all of her works must, in fact, be garbage, and their popularity is, in fact, not.

I guess you could say this wasn't quite a triumph of the will.

I really enjoyed "Atlas Shrugged Pt 1." I believe the problem with sales is due to it it being a grown up movie. A very important rule of media was broken. "Atlas Shrugged Pt 1" is for an audience older than 14 years old. This may have doomed it...for now. I believe this film will improve with age.

My review is at: http://atlasshruggedpt1.blogspot.com/

red state pay-per-view might save him....

won't be the first time a cheaply made, poorly directed, badly reviewed fantasy film finds a cult audience.

Why watch the movie when the real thing is playing out before our eyes in DC?

Fine. I'll buy the book to find out who John Gault is. However, it was something my son and I enjoyed going to together and discussing it later. It is fiction, so I don't know why the libs are so afraid of it.

Because of the 'critics'? Take responsiblity! If you read the book and understand how much it really relates to today, then that can not be an excuse. Are you one of the 'moochers'?

Put it out on DVD already. I want to see it but with such low distribution numbers, it is not close to me.

I thought the movie was great... except for the non-starter they cast to play the Female lead... she was atrocious. The rest of the cast was excellent, so long as they didn't have to try and have a conversation with her. Interesting decision by the screenwriters to take such a stark departure from the book that (spoiler alert) Dagny would try to prostitute herself... 99% of the rest was faithful to the original narrative.

I never believed this film was a Tea Party or Conservative film. Libertarian perhaps.

Ayn Rand is an Atheist Objectionist, there is no moral code to her work, no God. The folks, the American folks, do not follow Ayn Rand as their capitalist, free market, moral compass.

Two of the top ten box current release movies and two of the top five rentals right now are critical flops. Yet obviously the market has found them. Critics are not officials of the government stifling the free market in film tickets.

I am terribly, terribly shocked that the only positive review thus far came from the Murdoch-owned New York Post. Just shocked.

I guess critics aren't part of the free market, huh?

Haha, wow, I like how John Aglialoro response to the criticism for his bad movie is: 'I'm not going to make additional bad movies.'

We saw Atlas Shrugged this weekend, and the theater was packed. We thoroughly enjoyed it, and are eagerly looking forward to Parts 2&3 - I hope they get made.

If I recall correctly, "It's a Wonderful Life" didn't do all that well when it was first released.

Neither did a little movie called "A Christmas Story" (which we DID see in the theater, and told ALL of our friends to go see; hardly anyone did).

Mr. Aglialoro, please don't be discouraged by bad reviews from these critics. They are enthralled by movies the rest of the country doesn't ever like, and they sneer at the "populist" movies. Sometimes I think they do that because they want to get invited to the "in" parties where all of the shallow, empty-headed, "beautiful" people hang out.

If the folks in the theater where we saw it are any indication, your film was very well-received by the audience for whom it was made, and all of them are eager to see more. I sincerely hope that you will reconsider your decision -

Yes , those collectivist bas-turds stood at the door of multiplexes with Uzis...........
Could it be the the empowered-personal-transaction customer put the infallible magic-of-the-marketplace verdict upon it ??????????? Just askin' . CVomrade .
Da .

What a crybaby..with such a limited release..the jury is still out..

Who cares what the liberal Hollywood critics think..? Their tastes and mine have been miles apart for decades..

I love people like this guy and his defenders. Make a movie about the free market, and then whine when the free market decides your movie is terrible. Call people things like "lemmings," "Kool-Aid drinkers," and "sheeple" because they don't conform to your rigid philosophical views, and only accept those who do into your group.

If people's ideas and comments were assessed based on their ironic, contradictory nature, these people would get an A+. Alas, they are not.

And yes, I have seen the movie and read the book, so don't bring that out. I'm intellectually honest enough to recognize when something is a good piece of art even if I don't agree with it. The book is an excellent piece of literature with what are, in my opinion, idealistic and unworkable ideas. The movie is a terrible travesty that takes a classic piece of literature and inadvertently mocks it with its incompetence.

So, in short... the guy who made the Ayn Rand movie doesn't understand capitalism???

The market has spoken. Just as Ann Rand would have wanted.

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