Alt Film Guide
Classic movies. Gay movies. International cinema. Socially conscious & political cinema.
Home Movie NewsBox Office Atlas Shrugged Box Office: Lambasted Right-Wing Drama Is Commercial Disaster

Atlas Shrugged Box Office: Lambasted Right-Wing Drama Is Commercial Disaster

Atlas Shrugged movie Taylor Schilling Dagny TaggartAtlas Shrugged: Part I movie with Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart, the lead character in Ayn Rand’s lengthy 1957 bestseller: Market rejection has turned this first big-screen installment into a major box office bomb.
  • Atlas Shrugged: Part I box office: The first segment in a proposed big-screen trilogy based on Ayn Rand’s 1957 novel – the bible of American right-wingers – has turned out to be an unmitigated commercial disaster.

Atlas Shrugged: Part I box office: Initial big-screen version of Ayn Rand’s ‘objectivist’ novel on its way to becoming an out-and-out commercial dud

Ramon Novarro biography Beyond Paradise

April 15–17 weekend box office (cont.): The (domestic) market has soundly rejected the first installment in a proposed big-screen trilogy based on Ayn Rand’s lengthy, critically excoriated – e.g., Granville Hicks in the New York Times: “It has only two moods, the melodramatic and the didactic, and in both it knows no bounds” – 1957 novel Atlas Shrugged, the bible of American “libertarians” (i.e., hardcore right-wingers).

Directed by Paul Johansson from a screenplay by Brian Patrick O’Toole and John Aglialoro (also a producer along with Harmon Kaslow), and independently distributed by an outlet geared to “conservative” audiences, Atlas Shrugged: Part I debuted with $1.7 million from 299 theaters, averaging a downright mediocre (for a movie at less than 300 venues) $5,608 per site according to estimates found at (No final figures have been made available.)

Future prospects are at best … dismal.

Dismal prospects

For starters, Atlas Shrugged: Part I was directed by a little-known actor-turned-filmmaker and features performers with little-to-no following.

Compounding matters, the movie has a disgraceful 8 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes’ “top critics.” To date, the Rupert Murdoch rag New York Post is the only outlet that has offered some (cautiously worded) praise for the objectivist flick, whereas the vast majority of reviews more resemble Silas Lesnick’s commentary at

Atlas Shrugged is double-feature material for Battlefield Earth, offering a slavish interpretation of a story whose primary reason for being retold in the first place is cult devotion. While said devotees may deem the film successful at literally bringing the events of the book to the screen, there’s zero sense of character, dialogue or pacing.

Indeed, this Atlas Shrugged movie adaptation will find it all but impossible to as much as match – let alone recover – its reported $20 million production budget in the domestic market. And remember, that figure doesn’t include marketing and distribution expenses. (Note: Several earlier sources had pegged Atlas Shrugged’s price tag at a more modest $10 million, but $20 million seems to be the consensus now.)

No betraying Ayn Rand

It gets worse: International box office prospects are all but nil.

Again, Atlas Shrugged the movie has no name director and no stars; besides, Atlas Shrugged the book and Ayn Rand the author mean just about nothing outside the United States.

Coproducer John Aglialoro has said he would like to make Atlas Shrugged parts II and III – but without betraying Ayn Rand’s “principles.” Since that can be translated as “without losing money,” chances are there’ll be no Atlas Shrugged sequels.

Atlas Shrugged movie Grant Bowler Taylor SchillingAtlas Shrugged: Part I movie with Grant Bowler as “innovator” and businessman Henry “Hank” Rearden and Taylor Schilling as entrepreneur Dagny Taggart.

Look for the objectivist silver lining

The silver lining: Things could have been far worse.

Atlas Shrugged’s subpar (as opposed to disastrous) opening-weekend performance is likely a result of its popularity among its target audience: The Tea Party crowd (a.k.a. “Teabaggers”) – far-right members of the Republican party who have a hate-love relationship with the American government.

How so?

Well, Tea Partiers hate the government when it comes to taxes, social welfare (that benefits others), environmental/safety regulations, the separation of Christianity and State, etc. They love the government when it comes to military spending, social welfare (that benefits them), corporate handouts, the (selective) enforcement of so-called “traditional family values,” etc.

As found in The Independent, Atlas Shrugged coproducer Harmon Kaslow “turned the launch [of his movie] into a political event, branding it the film that Hollywood liberals ‘don’t want you to see’ … ‘We are targeting Fox News, and talk radio shows …. We are speaking directly to the sorts of people who can get a crowd to go out on a street corner to protest at a weekend. Because if they’re able to do that, then it’s pretty likely that they can also persuade people to go see a movie.’”

Admittedly, some persuasion must have taken place. The problem is that it was hardly enough to turn Atlas Shrugged into a – however modest – box office performer.

Atlas Shrugged movie cast

Set in the very near (dystopian) future, Atlas Shrugged: Part I exalts the boundless determination of a railroad tycoon and a brilliant “innovator” who, despite the opposition of freedom-, creativity-, and individualism-stifling unions and the U.S. government, succeed in building an efficient railway that will bring joy and happiness … to its investors and, as a trickle-down aftereffect, to the world at large.

Atlas Shrugged: Part I features Taylor Schilling (rumored to be a “liberal” and absent from the movie’s premiere) as its central character, Taggart Transcontinental Vice-President Dagny Taggart (at some time or other, a role purportedly coveted by Angelina Jolie, or Julia Roberts, or Anne Hathaway, or Charlize Theron, or Greta Garbo, or Marilyn Monroe, or…), and Grant Bowler as inventor-engineer-businessman Henry “Hank” Rearden.

Other cast members include Matthew Marsden (no relation to Hop actor James Marsden) as Dagny’s antagonistic loser brother James Taggart, Jsu Garcia, Graham Beckel, Rebecca Wisocky, Academy Award nominees Michael O’Keefe (The Great Santini, 1980) and Michael Lerner (Barton Fink, 1991), and director Paul Johansson as the silhouette of the mysterious capitalist-innovator-agitator John Galt.

Atlas Shrugged movie Taylor Schilling Matthew MarsdenAtlas Shrugged movie with Taylor Schilling and Matthew Marsden as James Taggart: An anti-capitalist opportunist, Taggart Transcontinental President James T. is invariably at odds with his entrepreneurial sister Dagny.

All-around box office bomb

Update: The big-screen version of Atlas Shrugged: Part I ultimately collected a measly $4.6 million domestically. In case it was ever screened commercially overseas, no box office figures are available.

Objectively speaking, pardon the pun, the initial big-screen segment of Ayn Rand’s objectivist novel was an unquestionable box office bomb.

And yet…

Atlas Shrugged sequels even bigger bombs

Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike was released in October 2012. Domestic/worldwide gross: An even measlier $3.3 million. Estimated budget: $10 million.

Directed by John Putch, Part II features Samantha Mathis as Dagny Taggart, Jason Beghe as Hank Rearden, Patrick Fabian as James Taggart, and D.B. Sweeney as John Galt, in addition to Esai Morales, Kim Rhodes, and Richard T. Jones.

But why stop at only two box office duds?

Atlas Shrugged: Who Is John Galt? was released in September 2014. Domestic/worldwide gross: An even measlier $846,700. Budget: $5 million.

Directed by J. James Manera, Part III features Laura Regan as Dagny Taggart, Rob Morrow as Hank Rearden, Greg Germann as James Taggart, and Kristoffer Polaha as John Galt, in addition to Joaquim de Almeida, Eric Allan Kramer, and Tony Denison.

Eventual so-yucky-it’s-yummy cult classic?

One final word: Based on Ayn Rand’s 1943 novel, King Vidor’s The Fountainhead, starring Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, and Raymond Massey, was a critical and commercial dud upon its 1949 release. Since then, however, the romantic psychological/social melodrama has found a devoted following among bad movie aficionados.

So, could the Atlas Shrugged film trilogy become a cult classic in the coming decades?

Everything is possible. Just don’t hold your breath.

Atlas Shrugged Box Office: Lambasted Right-Wing Drama Is Commercial Disaster” notes

More on the Atlas Shrugged: Part I mix of cinema and real-life politics (and religion): According to The Hollywood Reporter, the filmmakers “have been working to get organizers to insert mentions of the film into the millions of e-mails that go out to the [Christian] faithful, and Tea Partiers have obliged. … One recent e-mail to Tea Partiers in California, for example, alerted members of upcoming Freedom Rallies. But it also included a link to the movie’s trailer, the name of the local theater that has booked the film and the line, ‘Mark your calendars for a celebration of capitalism.'”

Taylor Schilling as an alleged “liberal” and absent from the Atlas Shrugged movie premiere: The Independent.

At a distant no. 2 on this past weekend’s domestic box office chart, Wes Craven’s latest Scream movie franchise entry, Scream 4, turned out to be an undeniable flop. In the cast: Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette.

Also this past weekend, Robert Redford’s historical drama The Conspirator, starring James McAvoy and Robin Wright, opened with disappointing figures.

Unless otherwise noted, “Atlas Shrugged: Part I Box Office: Lambasted Right-Wing Drama Is Commercial Disaster” box office information via Box Office Mojo. Budget info – which should be taken with a grain of salt – via BOM and/or other sources (e.g., the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Screen Daily, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety,, etc.).

Comments about Atlas Shrugged: Part I and other titles being hits/profitable or flops/money-losers at the box office (see paragraph below) are based on the available data about their production budget, additional marketing and distribution expenses (as a general rule of thumb, around 50 percent of the production cost), and worldwide gross (as a general rule of thumb when it comes to the Hollywood studios, around 50–55 percent of the domestic gross and 40 percent of the international gross goes to the distributing/producing companies).

Bear in mind that data regarding rebates, domestic/international sales/pre-sales, and other credits and/or contractual details that help to alleviate/split production costs and apportion revenues are oftentimes unavailable, and that reported international grosses may be incomplete (i.e., not every territory is fully – or even partially – accounted for).

Also bear in mind that ancillary revenues (domestic/global television rights, home video sales, streaming, merchandising, etc.) can represent anywhere between 40–70 percent of a movie’s total take. However, these revenues and their apportionment are only infrequently made public.

Matthew Marsden, Grant Bowler, and Taylor Schilling Atlas Shrugged: Part I movie images: Rocky Mountain Pictures.

Atlas Shrugged: Part I Box Office: Lambasted Right-Wing Drama Is Commercial Disaster” last updated in September 2023

Recommended for You

Leave a Comment

*IMPORTANT*: By using this form you agree with Alt Film Guide's storage and handling of your data (e.g., your IP address). Make sure your comment adds something relevant to the discussion: Feel free to disagree with us and write your own movie commentaries, but *thoughtfulness* and *at least a modicum of sanity* are imperative. Abusive, inflammatory, spammy/self-promotional, baseless (spreading mis- or disinformation), and just plain deranged comments will be zapped. Lastly, links found in submitted comments will generally be deleted.


Bob P. -

I loved the movie. Don’t forget. While some movies will come and go. This movie will be renting for the next 100 years. And when the Box set comes out I predict it will be a huge seller.

Zenzation -

The movie was not all that bad, but the premise is implausible. There is no record of the government ever taking the dramatic steps Rand offers as evidence of liberal overstep. Successful scientists and business people don’t walk away from their life’s work with a conversation. That’s just Rand’s overblown ego creating an unrealistic world in which her words matter, which they don’t. Her notion that unions do things to make a company fail ignores the success many companies enjoy though unionized. Ayn Rand grew up in Russia and hated communism, but to compare America to Russia is just plain ignorant.

Bob Black -

As a member of the staff of one of the first reports some +35 years ago of the anticipated ‘making’ of Atlas Shrugged, most certainly I went to see the movie. I knew it would be almost impossible to distill a thousand page book of that nature into a movie, or even a trilogy. I am in a business that brings me into the homes of a large cross-section of people and I have ample time to examine their libraries (from just a few books to massive volumes). I’ve found that many of them do contain the two indicated above – the Bible and Atlas Shrugged, about as philosophically antithetical as two volumes can be. But in most cases, neither of them look like they’ve been read – not really. Yet both are claimed to have been read from cover to cover by many?

Norman -

“Atlas” no doubt went over the head of most economically illiterite americans, including film critics.

Gary Thornton -

I wonder exactly when the average American will realize that they (Congress – Senate & House – Democrats & Republicans) are ALL MILLIONAIRES and WE – the rest of America – are all ruled by Millionaires! “THEY ARE ALL THE SAME”!

They say they feel our pain BUT they are all either lying OR delusional !!!!

“The world is full of willing people, those willing to work and those willing to let them”! – Author Unknown

45% of America working/paying taxes

See what I mean?

Who is John Galt?

bassboat -

Atlas Shrugged is a tremendous book for most who read it. For those who have read the book they will enjoy the movie, for those who have not read it they have to pay attention closely or they can get lost. It’s a tough plot to portray in less than 2 hours. I think John’s best shot is a prime time soap where the plot and the characters can be unfolded in a timely fashion. You have to remember this, after the Bible, Atlas Shrugged has been voted as the most influential book on people’s lives of any book ever written. To toss it aside because you have a problem with the message is really rather shallow.

joe4liberty -

For the record, tea party members (whom you choose to label as tea-baggers) are NOT conservatives, they do not love the governments war on everything, and while they may stand for Family Values, unlike the right, they do not believe that the government should have ANY say in what a family is or does.
As Sun Tsu said; “know thy enemy – know thy self”. Clearly the Tea party and the libertarian movement are your enemy, and clearly you know nothing of them… which gives me hope that bigots like the author will find themselves on the same scrap-heap of history as other great bigots of the early 20th century.

abe4honesty -

Whose liberty, joe4liberty?
And who do you think you’re kidding, joe4dishonesty? You may be self-deluded and probably a bigot as well, but you’re not fooling most of us.
Know thy Tea Party friends:

“So, first, it’s an overwhelmingly Christian group. 81% identify as Christian, and nearly half (47%) say they are part of the religious right or conservative Christian movement.

“Secondly, it isn’t libertarian, it’s much more socially conservative, with 63% saying abortion should be illegal and only 18% in favor of gay marriage.

“Third, it is fundamentally a Republican movement. 76 percent identify or lean towards the Republican party.”


You probably haven’t seen the movie and know nothing of Ayn Rand, but the movie certainly has nothing to do w/ “family values”; the main love affair is adultrous and none of the major characters have children.

Ayn Rand was libertarian and not conservative. She was also an atheist.

Sten -

It’s bizarre that so many tea partyers identify with Rand’s philosophy, while also identifying with the Christian Right. Rand held no punches in her takedown of the Judeo-Christian religion as one of the leading proponents of the “Morality of Death”, and of the looters (e.g. banks and corporations) that the faithful blindly allow to rob the country. Rand nailed the self-defeating nature of blind faith based upon the sacrifice of reason, yet many professed Galtians on the Right still march to that drumbeat of mystical brainwashing.

Debbie -

This was a great movie! We were encouraged to see it on tax day. Liberal Hollywood does not want you to see it. That is a sign that it must be good for Americans to see. It defends capitalism and individualism . I believe capitalism is the only moral way people should live in this world. To me, the left are like parasites to our society. They will stop at nothing to criticize and eradicate the right. I believe this movie helps expose them for who they really are. Don’t listen to what the left have to say. See it for yourself and then decide where you stand. Do you stand with the movers, America’s entrepreneurs or the takers, big government, unions, leechers, and moochers. ?



Jennifer -

I loved the movie – love the book – and CAN’T WAIT for parts two and three to come out….. I only hope its Soon!! Its perfectly cast and done So Well on its meager budget – director and cast should be applauded and honored as Great Americans!!! Our audience clapped and whistled at the end too – awesome cliffhanger – we saw it 2x this weekend and can’t wait for more!!!

tens -

I saw the movie today and it was amazing. Good messaging at the end. Even though Liberal would like to see the American flag burn and the country fall over their own greed about I want I want I want and those rich people make to much. They’re not hiring, they should hire, they should spend, they should not hold onto their money.. blah blah blah. Its all about what They think how other people should spend their money. Its not about money to rich people. Its about what ideas are theirs and that is what most millionaire care about. They can lose all the dollar they have and make it again, it doesn’t matter to them. Everyone can start a business if they try. Everyone can buy small real estate and work their way up. There are Millionaires with CP and other handicap. There are millionaire who were born in a poor family. Give me a break. When the producers move to a different country it is somehow the republicans fault.

Omega -


“Its not about money to rich people. Its about what ideas are theirs and that is what most millionaire care about. ”

If you believe that, you must also believe in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and that idealism, not greed, was the reason those who ruined the world economy in 2008 (I’m referring to your genius millionaires) paid themselves bonuses financed by American taxpayers’ hard-earned money.

I should add that your idea of a liberal as someone eager to burn the flag is a little off-kilter. Liberalism has nothing to do with pyromania.

rk -

One thing to keep in mind was the modest advertising budget and that it was put on at the last moment in many theaters.

Rick -

You will never get a honest opinion about the Tea Party aka Main St America from the liberal media. We expect this out of the idealogues that see no limits to the size and scope of government, taxes and assault on personal and religious freedoms. We don’t ask the government to enforce our view but rather uphold the constitution for which they including the current administration see as fundamentally flawed. Now more than ever people are feeling and seeing first hand the disastrous effects of government and state spending gone wild. We are living in a time where the average quality of life has taken a serious down turn. Politicizing and emotionalizing the argument will not dig us out of our current hole that has ballooned by as much as 13 percent in the last 3 months alone. Bottom line is government must retract regardless of who holds power and right now neither side seems to have the political will to do it. Raising the debt ceiling and increasing taxes even if on the affluent alone will not get us out critical trouble. The idea that we are not out of money or can just keep kicking the can down the road is irresponsible and incredibly dangerous. The likelihood of an openly pro union president cutting government at a time where we needed it yesterday is a pipe dream. This is the reason a film in limited release like Atlas Shrugged will have an audience.

Mary Humphrys -

“the Tea Party crowd aka “Teabaggers,” who have a hate-love relationship with the US government (They hate it when it comes to taxes, environmental regulations, the separation of Christianity/the State, etc.; they love it when it comes to the military, the enforcement of “traditional family values,” etc.).” Would that be anything like how the liberals love the government when they redistribute income, but hate it when it doesn’t allow gay marriage? Okay, I get it!

Faye -

Finally some honest reviews! Well said! I don’t think I can add anything. I loved the movie. Couldn’t figure out how they would handle a book that doesn’t seem to lend itself to film. It was visually beautiful, entertaining, mysterious, etc. I don’t think I have ever seen such bad reviews of any movie – ever. Don’t believe them. Think for yourself. Our audience clapped at the conclusion.

ragnar -

I find it intersting that this comments section does not allow name calling. I suppose the only name calling allowed at this
web site is from the story authors (i.e. “tea-baggers”).
I wonder if they will post this when I call them…
(fill in the blank).

Adam -

Gee, aren’t we thin-skinned?

“Tea-baggers” is as “offensive” as calling a Communist a “Red” or a “Commie” and the politically correct “p.c.,” or referring to liberals as “bleeding hearts.” How many Tea Party members would find those types of “name-calling” offensive? How many would consider themselves bigots if they talked about reds or bleeding-heart libs?

Time for you guys to get rid of the tea bags and start drinking some strong coffee. And then learn how to spell the word HYPOCRISY.

VeganDude -

I was shocked that I liked this so much. This movie is FANTASTIC. It’s not as hard hitting as the book (I’m a huge fan), but I recommend it to everyone. They did quite well at adapting it. The actors captured the passion of the characters while still leaving the hint of stoicism & intellectualism with which Ayn Rand painted her characters.

Also, the first time the John Galt Line runs is exhilarating, and the final scene is bone chilling and worth it unto itself.

SEE THIS FILM! it is not just for Tea Party folks; you will not regret it. I’m seeing it a 2nd time tonight!

Aleph -

I saw the movie yesterday and enjoyed it immensely. I think the harsh criticism gave me such low expectations that I was more impressed than I otherwise might have been.

It’s interesting that the reviews for this film attack the author for her personal life, the film makers for their marketing, the viewers for their political beliefs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie so maligned because the plot doesn’t support Liberal Hollywood.

It’s okay for Roman Polanski to be a rapist and for Woody Allen to be incestuous. It’s okay for our modern young actors and actresses to be shallow, self-absorbed drunks, drug addicts, unwed parents, thieves. It’s okay for anyone in Hollywood to be anti-American and anti-religious.

Anything and everything is permitted…except the right to think that those who produce should not be forced by an oppressive government to support those who do not.

Anyone who believes in freedom from over-taxation is given an obscene epithet (first applied by a man whose sex life should be nobody’s business but who insists on making it public ).

We who feel obliged to hide our political and economic beliefs for fear of attack or retaliation are given ONE movie that supports our views. And left-wing critics from throughout the country emit a collective gasp of horror when we go out to see that movie to show support for the men and women who were brave enough to make it.

In Germany in the 1930s one group was identified as a threat to society and the propaganda machine went into full swing. Was it any different than what’s happening now to those who stand up to say we must change our ways or someday soon deal with the consequences of economic collapse?

Omega -

You should’ve added that it’s okay for Republican idol Clint Eastwood to impregnate a woman (half his age) while married to another. That it’s ok for Republican Bruce Willis to support a bloody (and costly) war based on lies about weapons of mass destruction that never existed. Not to mention all the “pro-family” Republican politicians and religious leaders caught having sex with prostitutes (male and female), fattening their banks accounts with illicit money, and the like.

And yeah, absolutely, Hollywood gets criticized for being “anti-American” and “anti-religious,” and that’s because I’m assuming it’s totally “American” and “religious” to believe that we should NOT help our less fortunate brothers and sisters. Well, yeah, if you’re a satan worshiper and the like. Because Christians, Jews, Muslms, etc. are all taught that we MUST help those in need. (And no, I’m not talking about needy billionaire bankers, those who hate the government except when they get trillion-dollar bailouts.)

And really, to compare the fate of the Jews during the Nazi era to the well-deserved ridicule Tea Party fanatics get for their lack of compassion, their nastiness, their intolerance, and their hypocrisy is not just ludicrous, it’s downright insane. That’s why you people are so scary.

As for “Atlas Shrugged,” don’t expect parts ii and iii ever getting made. But don’t despair, “The Hangover 2” opens soon.

Omega -

Correction: Eastwood was in a long-term relationship with Sondra Locke when he cheated on her. They weren’t married. Living in sin, I guess.

Jason -

I think it was god, well acted, and wil be going to see part two and three.

Davie Jones -

You do realize that the term “teabagger” is a pejorative, right. You do realize you sound like a bigot, right?


This insensitivity reminds me of the way the “N” word used to be bandied about by rednecks who thought they were superior to another group of people.

Mark Stouffer -

I saw it today and was pleasantly surprised. It held up under all the withering criticism. It is amazing how many people don’t want this story to be told.

Spencer Stang -

If you’re going to take the time to slander somebody you could at least get some facts right. The only common element among all Tea Party supporters is that they want smaller government. I don’t know a single Tea Party supporter who supports the wars that Bush/Obama have delivered to us. Most Tea Party supporters (definitely not all) support medical marijuana, if not outright legalization of all drugs. Most support fewer laws against what consenting adults can do. Most support the shrinking of Govt period–get out of our wallets, get out of our bedrooms, stay away from our kids (i.e., stop spending their money!). . . just leave us alone. Why the left/right folks think that it’s okay for Govt to go beyond basic protection of individual liberty is beyond me but it certainly isn’t ethical.

Chuck Jones -

I saw Part One today and was very impressed, not only with the film adaptation of the book, but in addition, I was delighted with the talent displayed by the cast and the panarama of the beautiful state of Colorado. While the book was a difficult read, the movie was delightfully easy and interesting to watch. Kudos to all involved in the production of Atlas Shrugged Part One, and I anxiously await Parts Two and Three!


This website uses cookies to improve your experience. If you continue browsing, that means you've accepted our Terms of Use/use of cookies. You may also click on the Accept button on the right to make this notice disappear. Accept Read More