Disappointing box-office returns from a trio of politically polarizing films based on Ayn Rand's bestselling novel, Atlas Shrugged, have not deterred those behind the trilogy from further investments in movies.
Atlas Distribution, the company behind the three movies, is set to announce Thursday it will spend up to $30 million in the next three years acquiring, making and distributing as many as 15 movies.
The company secured the money from UM Holdings, a familiar source, given its chairman is John Aglialoro, the producer who largely bankrolled the three Atlas Shrugged movies.
Atlas Shrugged: Part I was released in 2011 and made $4.6 million. The next one came a year later and made $3.3 million and the third was released last year and grossed less than $1 million. While the movies did not earn back their production costs, insiders are holding out hope that home video sales, including digital deals, are such that the trilogy might eventually turn a profit.
Aglialoro co-founded UM Holdings more than four decades ago as Anthropometrics Heart Clinic. The company branched out from cardiovascular stress testing with investments in exercise equipment, drug research, petroleum services, airlines and more. Its first foray into film came through investments in the three Atlas Shrugged movies.
While those films were highly political, promoting capitalism over collectivism and appealing mostly to Libertarians and conservatives, Atlas Distribution president Harmon Kaslow says he is looking to acquire films in all genres, including animated features.
"We have no specific criteria other than the films need to be remarkable," he said. "In some ways we're trying to leverage our database, but message movies aren't our agenda."
Kaslow says he is circling a few Sundance Film Festival titles and the company's first acquisition could come as early as next week. His plan is to spend $25 million-$30 million releasing 3-5 films annually for the next three years, mostly by acquiring completed projects though he'll also consider partnerships with filmmakers prior to shooting.
Atlas Distribution is targeting independent movies that open on 500 or more screens and it will use a proprietary theatrical booking system called CinemaCloudWorks, which also is owned by UM Holdings and was used for the release last year of Atlas Shrugged: Who is John Galt?
CinemaCloudWorks is a digital tool that identifies lucrative markets for certain kinds of films, helps pinpoint marketing efforts, assists with booking and accounting, and more.
"What we learned from the Atlas movies is that marketing can go beyond demographics and be more data-centric, based on individual interests, and the Internet allows us to do this," Kaslow said. "There are people who may not be part of the target demographic, but we know they're interested in the movie."