She was a militant atheist who favored abortion rights and thought Ronald Reagan typified “the worst kind of conservatism.” Ayn Rand may sound like someone tea partiers and other conservatives would detest. In fact, they have been filling theaters to cheer a movie based on her novel “Atlas Shrugged.”

The critics panned it — the Tribune’s Michael Phillips called it “crushingly ordinary in every way” — but plenty of fans don’t care. They flocked to see the film, Part 1 of a planned trilogy, when it opened April 15. This low-budget, under-advertised movie racked up better box office numbers, on a per-theater basis, than director Robert Redford’s “The Conspirator.”

Why? Partly because Rand’s novel has a lot of ardent fans: Despite its 1,000-page length, it has sold 7 million copies since it was published in 1957. In a Library of Congress survey, the Bible ranked first on a list of most influential books named by readers. “Atlas Shrugged” was second.

Continue Reading on