‘Atlas Shrugged: Part 1’ Opens to Respectable Numbers Despite Critical Pans

“Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” may have been panned by just about every mainstream critic in the United States, but it nevertheless made a respectable first weekend opening, taking in $1,676,917 on about 300 screens across the country.

That translates to $5,608 per theater, making it the third best opening based on that measure.

The opening is even more remarkable considering that the movie, made for less than $10 million, had virtually no advertising, certainly not on TV, relying on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, free word of mouth from cable news and conservative talk radio, and organized viewing by conservative and tea party groups.

The movie was trashed by most mainstream critics, one suspects on ideological grounds more than on the basis of the film’s artistic value. Typical of the critical assessment was published in the Los Angeles Times. “The tinhorn film version of ‘Atlas Shrugged’ fails to rise even to the level of ‘eh’ suggested by Ayn Rand’s title.”

Audiences, so far, seem to be disagreeing with the critical assessment, selling out some venues and giving showings applauds as the credits rolls. They seem to appreciate a movie with capitalist heroes and government bureaucrat villains.

The question now is, what comes next? The producers of “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” hope to expand to 1000 screens. Then there are the foreign distribution rights which, so far, have not been consummated.

Also, does the film have legs, which is to say can it continue to show before respectable audiences for several weeks of its first run? One of the virtues of a micro budget independent film is that it doesn’t have to make a lot of money to go into the black. DVD, Internet streaming, and cable sales should also pad the movie’s bottom line.

All of that means that it has become more likely there will be an “Atlas Shrugged: Part 2” and an “Atlas Shrugged: Part 3”, tentatively scheduled to open April 15, 2012 and April 15, 2013. The joke going around righty circles is that Barack Obama can get a three DVD set to console himself with during his first year as a private citizen.

Broader, though, will the success that the “Atlas Shrugged” movie mean that there will be more conservative/libertarian themed movies? On a pure money making basis, there should be. But the film industry prides itself on its ideology more so than its ability to put posteriors in seats. So, only time will tell.

Sources: Box Office: Tea Party-Fueled “Atlas Shrugged” Makes Respectable Debut, Peter Knegt, Indiewire, April 17, 2011

Movie review: ‘Atlas Shrugged’, Michael Phillips, LA Times, April 15, 2011