"Atlas Shrugged" producer on slow start: I don't know if we'll make parts two and three now

A follow-up to yesterday’s news that not only is “Atlas” shrugging, it’s damn near collapse. If it keeps going at this rate, we might not get to see John Galt’s climactic seven-hour speech in part three.

The market is never wrong. Or is it?

“Critics, you won,” said John Aglialoro, the businessman who spent 18 years and more than $20 million of his own money to make, distribute and market “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1,” which covers the first third of Rand’s dystopian novel. “I’m having deep second thoughts on why I should do Part 2.”…

Aglialoro attributed the box office drop-off to “Atlas Shrugged’s” poor reviews. Only one major critic — Kyle Smith of the New York Post — gave “Atlas” a mixed-to-positive review, calling the film “more compelling than the average mass-produced studio item.” The movie has a dismal 7% fresh rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes thanks to critics like the Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips, who said “Atlas” is “crushingly ordinary in every way.” Roger Ebert called the film “the most anticlimactic non-event since Geraldo Rivera broke into Al Capone’s vault,” while Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers said the movie “sits there flapping on screen like a bludgeoned seal.”…

Though the film has made only $3.1 million so far, Aglialoro said he believes he’ll recoup his investment after TV, DVD and other ancillary rights are sold. But he is backing off an earlier strategy to expand “Atlas” to 1,000 screens and reconsidering his plans to start production on a second film this fall.

“Why should I put up all of that money if the critics are coming in like lemmings?” Aglialoro said. “I’ll make my money back and I’ll make a profit, but do I wanna go and do two? Maybe I just wanna see my grandkids and go on strike.”

The NYT didn’t bother to review it, which Aglialoro calls “the most hateful review of all.” Obviously the critical backlash is suppressing the box office, but if there’s any movie that should be — somewhat — critic-proof, it’s this one. There are plenty of Randians who, one would think, are willing to pony up in tribute to the great lady, and plenty more conservatives who’d be willing to go if only to spite left-leaning film critics by making it a sleeper hit. Where are they?

The obvious Plan B here would be to reach out to prominent libertarians, starting with the Paul family, natch, and do whatever the producers are legally able to do to get them to help promote it. Rand Paul’s already regaling Senate committee hearings with paeans to his favorite Rand books; maybe it’s as simple as sending him a copy of the film (assuming he hasn’t seen it yet) and asking him to put out the word among the Paul army if he likes it. Say what you will about them, but devoted libertarians aren’t stingy when it comes to donating to causes they believe in. Or, if the Pauls are unavailable, the producers could wait a few months and then try to hire Gary Johnson to promote it. He should have plenty of free time by then.

Exit question: Has there ever been a film as polemical as AS that’s done big business at the box office? I’m sure there has, but offhand I can’t think of one.