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'Atlas Shrugged: Part I' and 'The Conspirator' have decent first weekends

April 18, 2011

A film aimed at conservatives and another at history buffs debuted to moderate success this weekend.

"Atlas Shrugged: Part I," the first in a potential trilogy of films based on the 1957 novel by Ayn Rand, opened in 299 theaters and grossed $1.7 million, according to an estimate from Salt Lake City-based booking service Rocky Mountain Pictures. And "The Conspirator," about the trial of a woman accused of plotting to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, ended up with a $3.9 million take from 706 theaters.

"Atlas Shrugged" cost around $10 million to produce and was financed entirely by John Aglialoro, the chief executive of the exercise equipment manufacturer Cybex, who had no experience in Hollywood.

Despite a lack of almost any traditional advertising, the movie found an audience in certain parts of the country. It performed best in the suburb of Duluth, Ga., where the film collected $53,832 just on Friday and Saturday. Producer Harmon Kaslow said the film's backers organized a number of events in certain communities to create awareness about the film.

"But we also did email blasts to a number of 'tea party' groups and participated in their weekly conference calls to field questions from community-level leaders," Kaslow said.

The movie will expand to 1,000 theaters next weekend.

"The Conspirator," meanwhile, boasts bigger names and was a bit more expensive to produce — it had a budget of around $25 million. The Robert Redford-directed film was acquired at the Toronto Film Festival by Roadside Attractions, which co-released the movie with start-up American Film Co., a newly launched firm that focuses on financing and producing movies about American history.

A largely older audience drove the majority of the film's business, giving it an average grade of B-plus, according to market research firm CinemaScore. The film, whose release coincided with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, broke the top 10 at the box office this weekend, taking the ninth-place slot just ahead of Universal's star-heavy stoner comedy "Your Highness."

— Amy Kaufman

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