A zealous fan with more money than he knows what to do with invests millions of his own money in making a big screen movie adaption to spread the word of a literary tome with a cult-like following in the hopes of making a trilogy that will spread the cultural influence of the literary work to a much broader audience than has every received it and becomes part of the pop culture vernacular, only to see the first movie lose millions of dollars and bomb straight out of the gate.

Guess what the difference is between these two movies?

Battlefield Shrugged

So far, only Battlefield Earth’s box office receipts covered at least 30% of its costs.  At least you can look at the sci-fi aspects of Battlefield Earth and make a case that it will translate well to the silver screen?  But taking the first third of Ayn Rand’s novel of the private sector’s heroic struggle to… build… a train?  Oh, and add to it that the producers are in a rush to produce the first movie before their film rights expire and you have the makings of a box office bomb.

Yes, I am aware that the movie has a small amount of distribution, but apparently that’s all the free market is demanding.  In it’s second week, Rocky Mountain Pictures, which distributed this film as well as Ben Stein’s 2008 pro-intelligent design documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” decided to expand the films release to over 50% more theaters than the initial week.  Normally, an independent movie in its second week sees an uptick as you expand the offering of the movie to new markets.  Not “Atlas Shrugged” which saw a 48% drop in weekend ticket sales over the initial week

Jane Eyre, which has had countless movie remakes, arguable had a stronger performance in its seventh week since release while airing in less theaters than Atlas did in its second.  Apparently, Brontë has more box office magic than Rand, even though Atlas Shrugged hasn’t gotten as much conservative media push to get people to see it since the flop “American Carol,” which amazingly Atlas Shrugged is on pace to do as poorly.  If you attended the CPAC convention, you were treated to the world premiere trailer of the movie that was specifically selected to appear on April 15th, the traditional tax day.  This movie was specifically marketed to try to capture a viral Tea Party audience.  It didn’t take.

“Atlas” cost a reported $20 million to make.  It’s barely broken the $3 million mark.  It probably has a couple of weeks left in the box office, and they’ll probably rush it to DVD sales to try to recoup their losses. That still hasn’t stopped some from declaring that Atlas is a stunning success:

First, this story ran on Fox & Friends the day after the weekend grosses were already out showing the movie tanking badly.  We already knew how the movie was playing in the 400 theaters, Fox.  It tanked.  Second, only the distributors of the film said they “hope” to have the film in 1,000 theaters by this weekend, and they said that after the film’s first weekend.  However, most insiders are looking at these weekend numbers and saying it’s highly unlikely movie theaters are going to want to bump more successful movies for “Atlas.”

$5,000 a theater is impressive for an openly weekend of a blockbuster, not a small independent film.  I hit the roof when I hear Fox News talk about Atlas’ “Profits go through the roof”?  The movie is probably going to go out of theaters with $15 million losses for its producers…. even though it cost only $20 million to make.  I doubt DVD sales will make this movie break even.  For Atlas Shrugged, profits appear to be a dirty word. 

The reality is that Ayn Rand’s Atlas is getting the snot kicked out of it by Diary of a Wimpy Kid:Roderick Rules (which has actually made money for its studio) and the independent movie Win Win (which played in less theaters and has already been out longer.)  The only way we’ll see Atlas Shrugged Parts II & III is if they find people who don’t mind losing millions of dollars in making a movie people won’t see.

The free market has spoken.  Roderick rules.

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