"Atlas Shrugged" film adaptation banking on conservative support

The movie poster for "Atlas Shrugged."
Rocky Mountain Pictures

The movie adaptation of the Ayn Rand novel "Atlas Shrugged" debuts in theaters nationwide today -- and the reviews have not been good, to put it mildly. But as film critic Roger Ebert noted on Twitter today, his one-star review was countered by four-star ratings of the film from readers -- before most of them have presumably even had a chance to see it.

The film adaptation of "Atlas Shrugged" was years in the making, but it was ultimately produced in just 26 shooting days on a budget of less than $10 million. Though critics are panning it, its creators are banking on the book's decades-long popularity and the current strength of the conservative movement to make the movie a success, according to the Wall Street Journal.

"Atlas Shrugged" is a veritable libertarian bible that tells the story of society's leading innovators, who go on "strike" to protest government overreach. It was first published in 1957 but has maintained widespread popularity; more than 500,000 copies of the book were sold in 2009.

The film was produced by entrepreneur John Aglialoro with the assistance of entertainment attorney and executive producer Harmon Kaslow. Aglialoro and Kaslow sought out the support of conservative political organizations like FreedomWorks to promote the film. The pair say they anticipated the negative film reviews.

"We expected that the critics would have a fear of embracing this film," Kaslow told the Journal. "We knew that there was a substantial likelihood that they would not view the film as to whether we got the message right, but would look at it comparing it to what Hollywood would have done. I don't think our audience is persuaded at all by those reviews."

Their target audience certainly doesn't seem to be your typical movie-going crowd. The trailer "premiered" this year at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. And ealier this week, the Tea Party-linked FreedomWorks helped coordinate the movie's "special Hollywood red carpet premiere" at Union Station in Washington.

The group launched a website with a quiz that asks participants to guess whether a certain quote was delivered by an actual government official or a character from "Atlas Shrugged." The site also features a video of footage from the film spliced with images and remarks from President Obama.

"The Ayn Rand masterpiece is the fight before us today," says a written message in the video. As ominous music builds to a climax at the end of the video, the screen reads, "In theaters April 15, 2011; in your hands November 6, 2012."

Based on the more than one million hits the trailer has received on Youtube -- and the excited response from certain moviegoers -- the movie could be a success.

But according to Ebert, that doesn't necessarily tell you anything about its quality.

"I suspect only someone very familiar with Rand's 1957 novel could understand the film at all, and I doubt they will be happy with it," he wrote in his review. "The dialogue seems to have been ripped throbbing with passion from the pages of Investors' Business Daily."