May 8, '11, update: The first installment of a planned trilogy based on Ayn Rand's 1957 novel, Atlas Shrugged: Part I had one of the worst drop-off rates this weekend at the North American box office, down more than 70 percent after losing 143 locations. Currently showing at 228 theaters, Atlas Shrugged earned only $131,000, averaging a dismal $601 per theater on its fourth weekend out according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.
For comparison's sake: Also on its fourth weekend, Robert Redford's The Conspirator, starring Robin Wright and James McAvoy, averaged $1,285 per theater at 460 sites. All things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters, the higher a film's per-theater average should be.
Of course, The Conspirator has Redford, Wright, and McAvoy, whereas Atlas Shrugged – which was lambasted by the vast majority of critics – has mostly little-known names both in front and behind the cameras: actor-director Paul Johansson, and actors Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, Michael Marsden, Michael O'Keefe, and Michael Lerner. In any case, chances are that Atlas Shrugged: Part I will disappear shortly.
Producer John Aglialoro has said he wanted to go ahead and make Atlas Shrugged parts II and III, but without betraying Ayn Rand's “principles.” Since that meant “without losing money,” chances are there'll be no Atlas Shrugged sequels. Made for a reported $20 million (earlier sources pegged the film's budget at $10m), Atlas Shrugged has taken in only $4.28 million in North America.
Monday, May 9, Update: Atlas Shrugged was actually down 58 percent, still a steep figure though considerably less so than the estimated 70 percent. It collected $197,000, or about 50 percent more than reported on Sunday. Despite its stronger than expected performance this past weekend, Atlas Shrugged remains a major flop – one that will in all likelihood disappear in the very near future. The film's per-theater average remained quite low: $866 (The Conspirator's was $1,349). Atlas Shrugged's total to date: $4.34 million.
Photo: Atlas Shrugged (Rocky Mountain Pictures)
April 29, '11, update: The marketplace not only shrugged at, but downright turned its back on Atlas Shrugged: Part I, the widely derided film adaptation of Ayn Rand's 1957 novel about the individual's struggle against collectivism and government forces.
Directed by Paul Johansson from a screenplay by John Aglialoro and Brian Patrick O'Toole, and starring Taylor Schilling as Rand's heroine Dagny Taggart, Atlas Shrugged was supposed to have been – as the title indicates – part one of what would ultimately become a film trilogy like, huh, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings or Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors.
According to reports published in the last couple of days, that was no longer going to happen. Atlas Shrugged co-producer and co-screenwriter John Aglialoro blamed the liberal media and film critics for their willful, politically motivated box office destruction of his opus.
That, however, would be an acknowledgment that the United States' (purported) 11 million Tea Party members to whom Atlas Shrugged was targeted actually read – and believe in – film reviews written by bleeding-heart lefties. (Now, please, Tea Partiers, don't start calling me a bigot or compare me to a Nazi – see comments further below – because I'm referring to liberals as “bleeding-heart lefties.”)
So, Aglialoro now says he was misquoted. On the right-wing site Big Hollywood, in addition to singling out Roger Ebert and Peter Travers as enemies of his film and its ideals, the producer claims he wants to do Atlas Shrugged 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, co-producer Harmon Kaslow goes on to claim that CNN, CNBC, and MSNBC, for unspecified “editorial reasons,” refused to air a 15-second commercial for Atlas Shrugged.
“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,” Kaslow adds. (Scroll down to take a look at the “censored” ad.)
When Atlas Shrugged opened, Fox News reported that Hollywood executives were “baffled” at its box office performance. If true, they didn't remain baffled for very long.
Atlas Shrugged: Part I had a passable opening for a movie at only 299 theaters, $5,590 per site. The following weekend (April 22-24), the political drama plummeted, losing nearly 50 percent of its business despite screening at 150 (50 percent) more locations. Its average thus dropped to a dismal $1,890 per site. It'll likely soon disappear without a trace.
Also at Big Hollywood, quoting the ever-reliable New York Post, we learn that the New York Times (purposefully?) refrained from reviewing Atlas Shrugged when it came out, which may (once again purposefully?) have led to a major loss of revenue for Johansson's film.
Below is the initial paragraph from Carina Chocano's Times review, which was published yesterday, April 28. I don't know about you, but I get the feeling that Atlas Shrugged: Part I was immensely helped by the fact that the Times opted to ignore it at the time of its debut ten days ago. Seems to me it was an act of mercy, not malice.
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.
And here's Roger Ebert's tweet following the announcement that Atlas Shrugged: Part I would become Atlas Shrugged: Period.
Atlas Shrugged producer cancels Parts 2 and 3, blames critics, not his own lousy film.
Photo: Atlas Shrugged (Rocky Mountain Pictures)
Robert Redford's period political drama The Conspirator, starring Robin Wright, James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, and Kevin Kline, bowed modestly at the North American box office, scoring $3.92 million at 707 locations according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.
At no. 9, The Conspirator averaged a just okay $5,550 per theater. Distributor Roadside Attractions will have to decide how much wider will be the expansion of Redford's drama, which has a none-too-enthusiastic 62 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics. Cost: $25 million.
Robert Redford The Director hasn't had a major hit since The Horse Whisperer, which grossed $75 million back in 1998. The Legend of Bagger Vance, starring Will Smith, Matt Damon, and Charlize Theron, cumed at $30.91 million domestically in 2000, while Lions for Lambs, despite a cast that included Redford himself, Meryl Streep, and Tom Cruise, drew a paltry $15 million in North America. (Overseas, Lions for Lambs fared much better, pulling in $48.21m; Bagger Vance bagged only $8m.)
Faring even less impressively this weekend in the U.S. and Canada was Paul Johansson's critically lambasted Atlas Shrugged: Part I, which, at no. 14 on the chart, pulled in $1.67 million at 300 theaters. But then again, considering the film's vociferously negative reviews and the fact that it lacks a name director or big stars, in a certain way Atlas Shrugged's modest debut could be seen as quite a feat.
Having said that, Atlas Shrugged's $5,590 per-site average was less than 1 percent higher than that of The Conspirator even though, generally speaking, the fewer the number of theaters showing a movie the higher the per-theater average should be. Atlas Shrugged is currently screening at nearly 60 percent fewer locations than The Conspirator; in other words, Atlas Shrugged's per-theater take should have been much higher than that of Redford's film if it's to open in many more North American locations. Thus, barring a rallying call for Tea Party members and supporters, chances are the $10 million-budgeted drama pitting a determined individual against the government/collectivism will dwindle away rather rapidly.
Based on Ayn Rand's novel, Atlas Shrugged features director Johansson, Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, Jsu Garcia, Michael Marsden, Michael O'Keefe, and Michael Lerner.
Also debuting modestly was Bertrand Tavernier's Princess of Montpensier, which brought in $23,400 at three locations, averaging a passable $7,800 per theater. Princess of Montpensier stars Gaspard Ulliel, Mélanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson and Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet. According to indieWIRE, IFC Films is expected to add more theaters in the coming weeks.
The other movies on the North American top-twelve box office chart this weekend were:
- James Franco-Natalie Portman's Your Highness with $3.89 million (down 58.5 percent). Total: an abysmal $15.95 million. Cost: $50 million.
- Bradley Cooper-Abbie Cornish's Limitless with $3.89 million (down 30.5 percent). Total: $69.72 million. Worldwide: $100.32 million. Cost: $27 million.
- Matthew McConaughey-Ryan Phillippe's The Lincoln Lawyer with $3 million (down 30 percent). Total: $50.57 million. Worldwide: $55.47 million. Cost: $40 million.
Among the top-twelve movies, Rio had by far the highest per-theater average, $10,455. On its second weekend, Your Highness had the lowest, $1,405.
Also among the top twelve (barring newcomers Rio, Scream 4, and The Conspirator), The Lincoln Lawyer posted the lowest weekend-to-weekend drop-off rate, down 26.8 percent. Your Highness posted the steepest, down 58.5 percent.
Photo: Atlas Shrugged (Rocky Mountain Pictures)
Neither liberals nor libertarians (and the latter group's far-right cohorts) fared very well at the North American box office on Friday, April 15, according to studio estimates found at Box Office Mojo.
As mentioned in my previous post, Robert Redford's period political drama The Conspirator, which revolves around the trial of accused co-conspirator Mary Surratt (played by Robin Wright) following the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, opened modestly with $1.09 million at 707 locations, averaging a just passable $1,542 per site despite a number of positive reviews (62 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics), the fact that Oscar-winning legend Robert Redford directed it, and the presence of prestigious actors such as James McAvoy, Tom Wilkinson, Evan Rachel Wood, and Kevin Kline.
Opening at about the same level – despite a considerably higher per-theater average – was the Paul Johansson-directed, John Aglialoro-Brian Patrick O'Toole-scripted ode to anti-government ideology, Atlas Shrugged: Part I, based on Ayn Rand's 1957 novel in which a railroad tycoon discovers the wonders of self-determination. Taylor Schilling plays the central character (once “attached” to Angelina Jolie), while director Johansson, Jsu Garcia, Grant Bowler, Michael Marsden, and Academy Award nominees Michael O'Keefe (The Great Santini) and Michael Lerner (Barton Fink) have other key roles.
Atlas Shrugged scored $683,000 at 300 theaters; its per-theater average was $2,277 – or about 50 percent more than that of The Conspirator, but at about 40 percent fewer theaters. Remember: all things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters the higher the per-theater average should be.
In other words, those variables considered, on opening day Atlas Shrugged performed just as modestly as The Conspirator. In a way, that's actually quite a feat for Johansson's film: the low-budgeted Atlas Shrugged, which cost a reported $10m, has a dismal 8 percent approval rating among Rotten Tomatoes' top critics; compared to that, The Conspirator's 62 percent rating comes across as overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
Atlas Shrugged's middling (as opposed to dismal) box office performance is perhaps a result of the film's strong popularity among its target audience: the far-right members of the Republican party, the Tea Party crowd a.k.a. “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.)
: Box Office
Taylor Schilling in Paul Johansson's film adaptation of Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “The makers of Atlas have been working to get organizers to insert mentions of the film into the millions of e-mails that go out to the 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.'"
The Independent adds that Harmon Kaslow, one of the producers of Atlas Shrugged, “has duly turned the launch [of Atlas Shrugged] 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, and believe me, they're listening. 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.'” (The Independent report adds that Atlas Shrugged star Taylor Schilling, “who is rumored to be a liberal,” was nowhere to be seen in photos taken at the film's Washington premiere last week.)
Among the Tomatometer's top critics, Atlas Shrugged has absolutely no chance of becoming a cult hit. To date, Rupert Murdoch's New York Post is the only outlet that has offered some (cautiously worded) praise for Atlas Shrugged. Other critics were considerably less kind; among those was Variety's Peter Debruge, who opined: “Part one of a trilogy that may never see completion, this hasty, low-budget adaptation would have Ayn Rand spinning in her grave.”
At comingsoon.net, Silas Lesnick adds:
It would be impossible to offer any analysis of the film version without betraying some degree of personal stance towards Rand's (and presumably the filmmakers') beliefs. That being said, the intent of this review is not to debate the politics or ethics of Objectivism, but to ask whether or not the film has any value outside dogged, self-serving propaganda.
Put simply, it does not.
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. That is, the requisite traits that even make this technically a story in the first place are close to nil.
Photos: Atlas Shrugged (Rocky Mountain Pictures)