Grifters on Film

The LA Times reports that Ayn Rand’s filmic supporters will not be deterred by looters, moochers, or lousy reviews:

EXCLUSIVE: Atlas Shrugged: The Trilogy is still alive. The producers of the Ayn Rand adaptation will bring the first part of their planned series to home-entertainment platforms this fall, courtesy of a deal with 20th Century Fox, and expect to begin production on “Atlas Shrugged: Part 2” in September. They hope to bring the new film to theaters during the 2012 election season.

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“Atlas Shrugged: Part 1,” the low-budget adaptation of the first third of Rand’s dystopian novel, grossed $4.6 million during its five-week theatrical run this spring. After the film drew scathing reviews, producer John Aglialoro said he was reconsidering whether to move forward with two sequels. Now Aglialoro has resumed those efforts, according to producer Harmon Kaslow, and will devote all revenue from the release of “Atlas Shrugged: Part 1” to financing “Atlas Shrugged: Part 2.” […]

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The producers are retaining the home entertainment rights, but are paying a distribution fee to Fox to release the film on DVD, Blu-Ray, digital download and video on demand, according to Kaslow. He said the deal was born of strategy, not necessity.

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“What we discovered with the film is that it really doesn’t fit squarely into a lot of business models,” said Kaslow. “We got incredible grass roots and community level support for the movie, but what we didn’t have was the polished marketing edge that the studios have perfected. Now we get to use their marketing, their fulfillment capacity. We think that makes more sense for us than mortgaging those rights off for a number.”

Which sounds to me like ‘Since Fox is giving us a pity f… deal, we’ve decided the remaining installments should be retailed directly to home viewers, exactly like all other fetish-based pr0n’, but then I’m a cynic.

Speaking of rightwing political pr0n figures, NY Mag recently pointed out some inconvenient truths about Sarah Palin documentaries and right-wing viewership:

Next week, British provocateur documentarian Nick Broomfield (Kurt & Courtney, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer) will be screening his new doc on Sarah Palin for potential distributors, and his film promises to provide a very negative vision of the possible presidential aspirant/bus aficionado. Stocked with interviews with disgruntled former aides, Alaskan politicos, and other acquaintances from her orbit, Broomfield’s doc will stand as a counterpoint to the documentary The Undefeated, a hagiography of her days as governor of Alaska that premiered in Iowa last night, with Palin as the guest of honor. In the media, Palin is under constant (self-encouraged) scrutiny, as a magnet for both adulation and vilification. But when these docs come out, will anyone who either loves or hates her pay for the privilege of having their preconceptions reconfirmed?

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To be fair, docs are always a notoriously tricky niche in which to seek success, regardless of subject, and only a dozen have ever even grossed more than $13 million. (Four in this group came from lefty firebrand Michael Moore. The rest mostly star animals like penguins, lions, and Madonna.) And when it opens on July 15, The Undefeated will face another handicap: The audiences for documentaries are generally liberal, says Rocky Mountain Pictures principal Ron Rodgers, who released the 2008 pro-intelligent design documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (with star Ben Stein). “It’s hard to keep the attention of the faith-based audience,” says Rodgers. “Even with a faith-based message, they don’t like documentaries. [Expelled] performed poorly throughout the whole southeast – the whole Bible Belt was quite soft with it.”

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Interestingly enough, Expelled did go on to gross $7.7 million, but it was thanks to Democratic ticket-buyers who were driven by curiosity, either intellectual or perverse. (There are those on the left who enjoy the act of getting apoplectic listening to opposing viewpoints: by screaming at Rush Limbaugh on their car radios, for example.) When Rocky Mountain gave its film a wide release, it had great – and unexpected – success in such liberal hubs as San Francisco’s Embarcadero theater. […]

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Ultimately, how it does depends on what kind of story Broomfield tells. “The films themselves have to work as movies,” insists John Lesher, the former head of Paramount Vantage, which distributed An Inconvenient Truth… Ninety minutes of people pointing out various ways that Sarah Palin is evil may be cathartic for haters, but not necessarily anything they want to pay for. With Expelled, there was a curiosity factor, because while intelligent design is a term that’s thrown around quite a bit, it’s not explored in great detail on the news every day. But Palin is stubbornly omnipresent, and those who despise her know exactly why they do. (And getting mad at Fox News is free.) As one distribution chief says, “I root for their success — I want every movie to do well – but I think any [Palin] documentary’s prospects are cold — not cool, cold.”

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