The 'Atlas Shrugged' Movie Meets Box Office Reality

The Ayn Rand adaptation's chances of glory aren't looking great

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Atlas Shrugged is that 1,000+ page manifesto by literary cult hero Ayn Rand. It also happens to be that new movie breathlessly promoted by Tea Party activists, grassroots conservative groups and small-government minded think tanks. Despite the movie being hyped by Sean Hannity as the title "Hollywood doesn't want you to see," its chances of actually becoming a pop-culture phenomenon and reaping box office glory a la Farenheit 9/11 or Passion of the Christ aren't looking that good. Here's why:

The film is planned as a trilogy by businessman John Aglialoro, who's tried to bring the film to screens for decades. The Los Angeles Times has the definitive back story: it had a budget of $10 million dollars, has a director best known for directing TV's "One Tree Hill," was written by a screenwriter with "some horror [movie] credits" and is being promoted "by a small, Salt Lake City-based booking service." In other words, it's completely relying on the power of a name-brand author and best-selling title (over 7 million copies) to sell movie tickets to, it appears, anyone who's tired of the Obama administration.

This might not work, as the wreckage of film adaptations Left Behind: the Movie (63 million books sold) and The Celestine Prophecy (5 million+ ) can attest. Like Shrugged, both of these titles had an ideological following (one evangelical Christian, the other New Age), action-oriented plot and fervent grassroots promotion. But they were also doomed with small production budgets, indie distributors, bad reviews, and marginalized to a small amount of theaters. Left Behind made only $4 million in theaters, spawning niche DVD sequels. Prophecy ended up with less than $1 million in ticket revenue.

Does the same fate await Shrugged? Tomorrow, on tax day, it arrives in 299 theaters nationwide (most blockbuster titles open at 2,500+ theaters). Presumably, its distributor is hoping that strong word of mouth propels the film to expand to more locations, stoking further buzz. But the title was already savaged by early critics reviews, and currently sits a 0 percent at Rotten Tomatoes. And even though groups like Freedom Works have recut the film's trailer to include "collectivist" quotes from Obama in order to get attention (video below), how many people want to sit through a bad movie just to thumb their nose at the administration? We'd guess not many. But don't take our word for it. Here's Roger Ebert, one of those critics responsible for the 0% on Rotten Tomatoes:

Let's say you know the novel, you agree with Ayn Rand, you're an objectivist or a libertarian, and you've been waiting eagerly for this movie. Man, are you going to get a letdown.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.