- Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the first segment in a proposed film trilogy based on Ayn Rand’s trash-classic, has turned out to be a critical and commercial bomb. Who’s to blame? According to one of the movie’s producers, critics and “the establishment” are the culprits.
Who’s to blame for the all-around failure of the initial big-screen adaptation of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged?
“The market” not only shrugged at but outright turned its back on Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the critically derided first installment in a planned big-screen film trilogy based on Ayn Rand’s critically derided 1957 novel about a couple of entrepreneurial free spirits fighting powerful, creativity-stifling unions and government forces.
In point of fact, Atlas Shrugged: Part I can already be called an unqualified box office bomb.
Directed by Paul Johansson, and featuring Taylor Schilling as the determined railroad tycoon Dagny Taggart and Grant Bowler as the brilliant “innovator” Henry “Hank” Rearden, the sociopolitical drama targeting American right-wingers debuted with only $1.7 million from 299 theaters (April 15–17 weekend) while averaging a mediocre (for a movie at fewer than 300 venues) $5,608 per site.
From then on, it has been all downhill. Precipitously.
The following weekend (April 22–24), Atlas Shrugged: Part I lost nearly 50 percent of its business despite the addition of 166 locations, its per-venue average plummeting to a dismal $1,894. In the next couple of weeks or so, it’ll have disappeared without a trace.
Critics and ‘the establishment’ gang up against Ayn Rand
On the right-wing website Big Hollywood, Atlas Shrugged: Part I cowriter/coproducer John Aglialoro claims he does want to make parts II and III but without betraying Ayn Rand’s “principles.” In other words, without losing money.
“This has to be a profitable venture,” Aglialoro explains. “The challenge is in finding a way to overcome the critics and the rest of the establishment, who are united against us.”
In the same piece, Atlas Shrugged coproducer Harmon Kaslow claims that CNN, CNBC, and MSNBC, for unspecified “editorial reasons,” refused to air a 15-second commercial for the movie, adding that “this unforeseen censorship effectively puts the brakes on our follow-up marketing efforts where we were trying to reach millions of people unaware of the movie being in theaters now.”
The weird thing, at least when it comes to complaints about film critics, is that we’re to understand that the United States’ (purported) millions of Tea Party members – i.e., Atlas Shrugged’s target audience – actually read and trust movie reviews written by bleeding-heart lefties.
And if that weren’t all…
Mercy, not malice
Also at Big Hollywood, quoting Rupert Murdoch’s Paper of Record, the New York Post, we learn that the New York Times failed to review Atlas Shrugged: Part I upon its release. And that such (willful?) omission may have resulted in far fewer ticket sales.
Be that as it may, below is the initial paragraph of Carina Chocano’s Times commentary, which was published on April 28:
Could anyone have guessed, way back when it was published in 1957, that Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s grandiloquent doorstop of a masterwork, would one day reach the big screen as high-camp comedy? Because stilted prose and silly plotting notwithstanding, Rand’s unrelentingly popular book has exerted a powerful ideological hold on the culture, an influence that has only intensified in recent years with the emergence of the Tea Party. Still, for unintentional yet somehow boring hilarity, the novel can’t touch the cinematic adaptation, which shifts the action to 2016 and presents Rand’s ham-fisted fable of laissez-faire capitalism as something C-Span might make if it ever set out to create a futuristic, proto-libertarian nighttime soap. In the 1980s.
Having read the paragraph above, surely you’ll agree with us that the Times‘ decision to ignore Atlas Shrugged: Part I on its debut weekend was an act of mercy, not malice.
Roger Ebert reacts
Lastly, here’s a Roger Ebert tweet following the announcement that Atlas Shrugged: Part I would become Atlas Shrugged: The Final Chapter.
Atlas Shrugged producer cancels Parts 2 and 3, blames critics, not his own lousy film.
“Atlas Shrugged: Part I Flops” endnotes
Taylor Schilling and Grant Bowler Atlas Shrugged: Part I movie image: Rocky Mountain Pictures.
“Atlas Shrugged: Part I Flops: Film Adaptation of Ayn Rand Novel Ruined by … Critics?” last updated in January 2023.