Monday, October 15, 2012

Audiences shrug at 'Atlas Shrugged II'

     Once again a film in the Atlas Shrugged trilogy has opened, once again the mainstream media (MSM for fans of Rush, Beck, Fox News in general and conservatives) has virtually ignored it, and once again so have moviegoers. The film opened in 11th place, with less than $2 million in its opening weekend box office.
     Of course, it's easy for MSM critics and reviewers to ignore something when they aren't allowed to see it before it opens. The producers did this because they want to control the message, and feared that the MSM would just shoot them down. But controlling your message means you have to have a message, and you have to communicate it. That requires time and an adequate advertising budget. I saw little advertising.
     Despite the failure of this approach with part one, the producers doubled down for part two. 
     Atlas Shrugged is a popular book as books go, especially books more than half-a-century old, but that's still a minimal audience for a film. It could have used some help. As the aphorism goes, there's no such thing as bad publicity, though maybe it should be that bad publicity is better than no publicity.
     I could be wrong, but I think Fox News would have been happy to promote the film. Even Comedy Central's The Daily Show and Colbert Report might have been interested. Sure, they might jeer a bit, but they're not rude to the guest's face even when they disagree.
     As I pointed out in an earlier column, Atlas Shrugged is science fiction. There are a lot of sf fans who are conservative and might have been interested in plugging the film on their blogs or social media.
     Even if the first film's 5 million or so moviegoers were augmented by those who saw it on DVD, if they didn't know it was opening, how would they find out about it? ran a review, but how many people look to for movie recommendations? Without appealing to the MSM for publicity, they were clearly counting on word of mouth. If so, they miscounted. According to Entertainment, the second film's opening weekend audience is almost exactly the size of the first's: 1.7 million versus the first's 1.6 million. And this time the film opened in twice as many theaters (it played in three theaters in Macomb County alone).
     It also cost twice as much to make, due in part to the fact that the first film's entire cast seems to have been replaced, as has the director.
     Despite the producers' complaints that the MSM wasn't fair to the film, this might suggest the producers weren't too happy with the first film either. That was a risky move. A conservative colleague hearing this decided the first film was probably pretty bad or they wouldn't have replaced everybody.
     There could be other factors. Since the first film didn't do well, and the producers weren't sure they would do parts two or three at first, the cast might not have been locked into appearing in the followup films in time. Actors need to work to pay the bills, and they might have found other projects before the sequels were scheduled. But none of the leads? It raises the obvious question of whether the new cast will return for part three, if there is a part three, or if it's time for musical chairs again.
     Then again, maybe the producers have gotten what they wanted. Maybe they wanted the film to succeed or fail on its populist message (if you interpret its story of genius fat-cats going on strike to teach the looters and the masses a lesson as populist) and word of mouth alone. I would argue that it's no good having a good product if the people who need or could use your product can't find it or don't know about it, but that's just my opinion.
     Conservatives object when President Obama blames President George W. Bush for the sluggish economy. I wonder what excuse the producers will use for the failure of Atlas Shrugged: The Strike.


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