Steve Jobs movie flops on opening weekend

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Steve Jobs’ Doesn’t Click: Why Sony Was Right to Pass.

Steve Jobs is an intelligent and engaging movie loosely based on the legendary Apple co-founder’s life, boasting an Oscar-worthy turn from Michael Fassbender, an Oscar-winning director in Danny Boyle, and an Aaron Sorkin script that Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal previously compared to a modern-day Citizen Kane. Danny Boyle’s film starring Michael Fassbender as the iconic Apple co-founder failed to rally moviegoers in much of the country — nearly a year after former Sony Pictures chairman Amy Pascal had enough concerns that she let the project move to Universal.Moviegoers this weekend shunned Universal Pictures’ “Steve Jobs,” a sign that Sony Corp. executives may have been right to dump the biopic of the Apple Inc. co-founder.

Steve Jobs, starring Oscar nominee Michael Fassbender and written by Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin, crashed hard in its first weekend in wide domestic release, making $7.2 million — barely beating the $6.7 million debut for 2013’s Jobs, starring That ‘70s Show star Ashton Kutcher and written by some guy whose only screenplay credit is, well, Jobs. But such praise and overwhelmingly positive reviews haven’t resulted in big box office numbers — Steve Jobs only pulled in $7.3 million on its opening weekend.

But the Apple co-founder’s story — which perhaps was rejected for being told through the Sorkin Reality Distortion Field — wasn’t the only film that audiences moved to the trash this weekend. AAPL, +3.10% co-founder through three product launches. 20th Century Fox’s FOXA, +1.07% space epic “The Martian,” starring Matt Damon, came in at No. 1 over the weekend. That’s less than a third of the movie’s $30 million cost, Variety says, and that total pricetag doubles when you include the cost of marketing the feature. Jem and the Holograms, the nobody-asked-for-it nostalgia gambit from Blumhouse Productions (which normally makes cheap horror movies involving ghosts and slashers, not trippy ‘80s cartoons) barely got over $1 million for its three-day bow, making it one of the biggest embarrassments of the year — losing even to mega-blechbuster Pan, which made more than twice that in its third week of utter floppitude. The Ridley Scott-directed sci-fi(ish) flick earned an estimated $15.9 million in its fourth weekend in theaters, based on studio estimates released by Rentrak.

Steve Jobs would reportedly need to make around $120 million to break even — an unlikely figure when you consider that it’s $7.3 million opening weekend is scarcely half-a-million more than Ashton Kutcher’s critically panned Jobs scored on its debut. Sony sold the “Steve Jobs” project late last year after rejecting the cast and budget the filmmakers wanted, a dispute that was revealed in e-mails leaked following a cyber attack.

Not to be outdone by not-scary Blumhouse Productions, supposedly-scary Blumhouse Productions also watched Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension fade into the mist. The film, based on Andy Weir’s novel of a NASA astronaut fighting to survive on Mars, also stars Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Kate Mara.

These early numbers vindicate Sony analysts who, as shown by the emails leaked when the studio was hacked last year, said Steve Jobs might only make back some $30 million across its entire lifespan in North America. The sixth and final installment of the ultra low-budget franchise opened to just $8.2 million – a far cry from Paranormal 3’s franchise-high $52 million — in part because most major theater chains refused to carry it over its quick-to-VOD release plan. Having already pulled in $154.8 million through Friday, according to Box Office Mojo, the Oscar-buzzing film is set to make its China debut next month, where it should perform well; the China National Space Administration plays a major role in the film. “Goosebumps” continues to perform well at the box office.

Universal and the major studios are in the business of wide releases backed by a major marketing spend, not platform offerings, yet Jobs is playing like a quintessential specialty release. Its troubled production was drawn out in public, with A-list actors including Leonardo DiCaprio passing on the role and senior Apple Inc. executives chastising filmmakers for their portrayal of Jobs. Those pitiful numbers would almost make The Last Witch Hunter look pretty good at $10.8 million, good for fourth place, except that Vin Diesel’s cheesy action fantasy reportedly cost more than $75 million to make. Steve Jobs overindexed in upscale theaters in New York and Los Angeles, where awards voters are concentrated, and in cities including Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Toronto and the San Francisco Bay Area, home of Silicon Valley and Apple.

It also did well in high-tech hubs Seattle and Austin. “We’re going to redouble our efforts to support these markets,” said Universal domestic distribution chief Nic Carpou. “It’s working great in these theaters now, and we want to make sure it continues to do so.” Universal wouldn’t comment on its decision to go wide with Steve Jobs, versus sticking to a platform run until Golden Globe and Oscar nominations are announced. The film faced a lot of competition from new movies aimed at the same adult audience, such as “Bridge of Spies” from Steven Spielberg, said Paul Dergarabedian, senior analyst at Rentrak. In second was Goosebumps with a respectable $15.5 million, not a surprise with families seeking a Halloween-appropriate outing as we creep up on the holiday.

When putting Steve Jobs together, Pascal was worried about the film’s commercial prospects, since Sorkin’s script was essentially a three-act play, versus a broader biopic like Sony’s Social Network, about Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg. One favorite theory going around Sunday morning was that the weeklong frenzy over Star Wars: The Force Awakens, including record-breaking ticket pre-sales, put a dent in moviegoing this weekend. Some of the filmmakers and writer Aaron Sorkin initially opposed the choice of director Danny Boyle. “I think Danny needs to rethink how he wants to do the movie,” Pascal wrote in a Nov. 13, 2014, e-mail to producer Scott Rudin. “We are not gonna get anyone to help us out here at this cost with this cast.” The movie also may have turned off an audience that has already been offered two other films about Jobs, who died in 2011. The Academy might back her up in that assessment, but from a financial perspective, her company’s decision not to follow through with the movie seems like the right one.

After the two actors passed and Fassbender came aboard, Pascal told Rudin and Boyle they had to bring down the $33 million budget to $25 million, but Rudin said no and struck a new deal with Universal at a budget of $30 million. “It has to be able to be realized at a decent number right? In 2013, Ashton Kutcher starred in a critically panned movie “Jobs.” “There is just general burnout about this story,” Jeff Bock, senior box office analyst at Exhibitor Relations Co, said in an interview. “Everybody feels like they know his story, and don’t need they need to relive it again.” The film received backlash from Apple chief executive Tim Cook as well as Jobs’s widow Laurene Powell Jobs. Cook described it as “opportunistic,” while Powell took to Twitter to praise Walt Mossberg’s review which said that it didn’t reflect the man he knew. The film is being made available for video on demand just 17 days after its theater debut, and some theaters have refused to show the movie as a result. That’s the other thing – this can’t be without a star playing Jobs and can’t be done by just anyone,” Pavlic had written in an August 2014 email to Pascal that came to light during the Sony hack. “Obviously.

The script is a perfect 10 but in the wrong hands it grosses mid 30’s.” “Let’s take the obvious off the table here — there are marketing liabilities to this script. As it turns out, the movie’s fourth-top grossing theater was the Cinemark Century Cinema 16 in Mountain View, Calif., less than 10 miles away from Apple headquarters. Otherwise, one rival studio executive believes the majority of moviegoers aren’t interested in seeing a movie about Steve Jobs, since much of his story is known. “Put it this way, 21 percent of the theaters playing the movie accounted for roughly 57 percent of the total gross.

They play well in the major cities and among the intelligentsia and then have a tougher time gaining acceptance in wide release.” He adds, “That said, it’s a great movie and it’s box office performance should not impact it’s Oscar prospects.

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