The Steve Jobs movie flopped at the box office

26 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

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

It may be generating Oscars buzz for Michael Fassbender’s titular role in Danny Boyle’s biopic, but Steve Jobs is failing to impress in the US box office. 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. Steve Jobs had a budget of approximately $30 million (€27m) and has taken in a total of $9.98 million (€8.97m) to date, according to The Hollywood Reporter. 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.

In August 2014, a top Sony marketing executive warned co-chairman Amy Pascal that Steve Jobs needed a major star to overcome its marketing challenges. 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. Two years and one Sony hack later, Universal’s released another film about Apple’s founder, but with Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle, Oscar-winning writer Aaron Sorkin, Oscar-winning producer Scott Rudin, and a gilded cast—Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen—on board. 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.

Universal believes that the film can recover, with the film studio’s domestic distribution chief Nick Carpou telling Variety: “We are going to continue to support the film in the markets where it is showing strength and we’re going to continue to do it aggressively and proactively. While it had been achieving strong numbers in limited release, a nationwide expansion of Danny Boyle’s Oscar-tipped drama Steve Jobs flopped, with only $7.2m from more than 2,400 cinemas.

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. This number is heavily swayed towards independent venues in bigger cities and is especially underwhelming when compared with The Social Network’s initial bow of $22.4m. 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. The movie earned more than half-a-million dollars in its first weekend at just four theaters, finally pulling in $2.6 million for the two-week period it was playing in only a few locations. There’s time yet for Steve Jobs to recover—the movie’s been rapturously received, and awards buzz should buoy its long-view performance—but some will argue that its flop is another symptom of the modern moviegoer’s aversion to quality filmmaking.

Vin Diesel’s fantasy horror The Last Witch Hunter, which also stars Michael Caine and Elijah Wood, made only $10.8m – worrying news for Lionsgate, given a reported budget of around $75m. 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. Paranormal Activity films used to be a reliable draw around Halloween (the third in the series opened with $52m), but their popularity has dwindled, so closing the saga was a smart decision.

After being battered by several biographies and decades of unrelenting media coverage, the modern moviegoer is a wee bit exhausted by anything to do with Jobs, and especially indifferent to a movie called Steve Jobs that doesn’t have a big-name star at its helm. (Fassbender is a miracle of an actor, but DiCaprio he is not). 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. Perhaps movie-goers are saving their money for Star Wars, or perhaps the heavily fictionalized version of the Apple founder seen in Steve Jobs didn’t resonate with people in the way the real man did in real life.

Directed by David Fincher and written by Sorkin, Social Network debuted to $22.4 million in early October 2011 on its way to earning $97 million domestically and $128 million overseas. 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. 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.

That’s huge,” says one box office analyst with access to grosses. “Conversely, 39 percent of theaters did less than $1,000.” Paul Dergarabedian, Rentrack’s box office analyst, notes, “Often sophisticated, intellectually charged movies like Steve Jobs have a a tough time gaining huge acceptance by a general audience. 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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