I was tapped one hour before the scheduled start time to be the replacement program at the April 18, 2011 Karl Hess Club meeting. I chose to give my presentation on the opening, this past weekend, of Atlas Shrugged: Part One. See also First Impressions of Atlas Shrugged: Part 1.

–J. Neil Schulman

Listen Now:
Karl Hess Club Talk:
Atlas Opened

One comparison of the opening weekend I wasn’t able to make with such short notice was to another film that turned out to be a box office success. Both mid-April releases, both made in the same budget range, neither one with star power driving box office, no TV or print ad campaign driving ticket sales on either movie, roughly the same number of screens and roughly the same performance per screen, both successes based on audience word-of-mouth.

My Big Fat Greek Wedding, released April 19, 2002 — exactly nine years ago today.

Here are the comparables:

My Big Fat Greek Wedding

Opening weekend:

Date                   Rank    Sites      Average      Gross
2002 Apr 19            20      108        $5,531       $597,362

USA Theatrical gross: $241,437,427  

Worldwide Theatrical gross: $356,500,000

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1

Opening Weekend

Date                   Rank      Sites      Average      Gross
2011 Apr 15            14        299        $5,639       $1,686,347

My Big Fat Greek Wedding Atlas Shrugged -- Part 1

Every box-office report on Atlas Shrugged: Part 1‘s opening weekend has been a dismissal of the opening weekend as a “train wreck.” You can hear the panic in the writers’ voices — the same dismissive tone critics have been directing at the best-selling sales figures of the novel since 1957. Let them panic now that Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 has an opening weekend twice as good as My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

I wrote my first impression review of Atlas Shrugged: Part One after seeing the midnight show Friday.

I saw Atlas Shrugged: Part 1 Monday 2:00 PM for my second time in Westwood — a weekday during business/school hours. There were 50 people watching this show, and they applauded at the end. A weekday matinee that has more people than a Friday or Saturday night screen for most studio releases.

Speaking personally, the second screening had even more of an emotional impact for me than the first time — maybe because I was no longer waiting for scenes from the novel that weren’t there but was seeing what was on the screen. It’s pure character-driven story-telling. Nobody needs to be familiar with the novel to follow the movie — and the overwhelmingly positive audience reactions on sites like Rotten Tomatoes reflect that. The responses from people responding to my review linked from my Facebook wall have been very positive.

What the critics are missing is that Atlas Shrugged will likely end up being, like My Big Fat Greek Wedding, The Passion of the Christ, The Blair Witch Project, and Napoleon Dynamite — one of those indie blockbusters that are always dismissed as “an exception” because you’re not supposed to be able to have a success without enormous production costs and massive studio P&A spending.

–J. Neil Schulman

Atlas Shrugged: Part 1
Director, Paul Johansson
Screenplay by John Aglialoro and Brian Patrick O’Toole
From the Novel by Ayn Rand
The Strike Productions / Rocky Mountain Pictures
Starring Taylor Schilling, Grant Bowler, Matthew Marsden, Michael Lerner, Graham Beckel, Rebecca Wisocky, Edi Gathegi, Jsu Garcia

My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available as a DVD on and for sale or rental on Instant Video. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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