Ayn Rand’s political and economic opus Atlas Shrugged has been turned into a movie. It was scheduled to screen one-time only at the Richland Public Library on Sunday.
The showing was canceled. Tea Party organizers say the producers canceled it because of pressure from movie theaters not to allow private screenings of an independent film.
I go to private screenings of independent films all the time. A pre-release screening is common. Movie theaters benefit from them because critics review the film. They don’t care whether the reviews are positive or negative. Some of the screenings are promotional and involve audiences of as many 200. Word of mouth from those attending generates publicity.
When you invest millions in a project, free publicity works.
Another point, I have received an annual pass to catch un-screened movies from Regal Cinemas for years. Regal doesn’t care whether I give them positive or negative reviews.
No offense to the event’s organizers, but the stated reason for cancellation doesn’t hold much water. After 20 years of interaction with the theater chains several times each week, I know them fairly well. It is unlikely they are pressuring the producer. Marginal independent films that are politically skewed are shown all the time at independent venues and in private auditoriums with digital projection capability.
I’ve never heard a theater chain complaint about them.
The types of films I’m referencing are the anti-Michael Moore Fahrenheit 9/11 films of a few years ago and a few of the anti-big government, we're spending ourselves into oblivion flicks. There was also the global-warming responses to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.
On the liberal side, there are the anti-Fox News movies and a few others that got little attention outside of the venues we’re considering here. They have been shown outside of main stream theaters and in venues such as the Richland Public Library without complaint.
To be fair, they don't often show up on area movie screens.
What is likely happening is that the producers are taking a huge bath financially and are desperate for some sort of publicity — any sort of publicity — to promote their movie. Scheduling it at a library and other social arenas and then backing out would create controversy.
And free publicity.
While that scenario may also sound unlikely, it is a more likely explanation than the theater chains "forcing them" to cancel. Remember, the screening organizers are encouraging folks to go to the website and demand that Atlas Shrugged be shown in your market.
In this case, it is Tri-Cities.
And really, when you think about it, what group with a political agenda — and this film’s producers have one — has ever been intimidated by what others think? I doubt the Tea Party gives a rip about what the theater chains think.
Even if the producers are having a small showing of this in other venues, the area theater chains are not going to turn down booking a movie that will generate popcorn and soda sales and a box-office cut. This is especially true if the film will bring in big box office numbers.
If their estimates are that the film will not generate big numbers, then they’re not going to be all that bothered by the few people that will attend them at screenings in those other venues.
Think about it. How many people can the Richland Public Library hold anyway? Not the kind of numbers that is going to upset a theater chain.
The movie actually opens nationwide April 15 in select theaters in larger markets. So this ultimately sounds like a push to get you to contact Regal, Carmike or Fairchild Cinemas and beg them to book the film in the Tri-Cities soon after.
Jeff Fairchild of Fairchild Cinemas told me he has received a few emails about the movie. At this point, he has no plans to show the film.
Bob Scarborough, who books movies for Carmike, told me he has been in touch with the film’s distributor. A decision as to whether the film will open in Tri-Cities depends upon how well it does in the larger markets next week.
I was unable to reach the person who books films for Regal.