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What happened to Steve Jobs? Not the brilliant technician who helped launch Apple, but the movie that is based on his accomplishments. It was supposed to be a hit. The prestige picture was supposed to contend for numerous Oscars. (I was guilty of using the dreaded "F" word – Frontrunner – in my Awards Blend coverage.) Instead, Steve Jobs seems to be trending downward, in a curious fashion.
To date, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs biopic – starring Michael Fassbender in the lead and working off of an exquisite Aaron Sorkin screenplay – has only grossed $16 million after opening on October 9. The film went wider on October 23, but Collider notes that weeks after, the film just dropped out of 2,072 movie theaters, likely due to the film’s meager performance. In the most recent box-office frame, Steve Jobs only banked $797,795, good for a 15th-place finish on the weekend charts. Not good. In fact, the only time that Steve Jobs managed to crack the Top 10 was the weekend of October 23, when it earned $7.1 million and finished in seventh.
Reviews should have helped Danny Boyle’s film. The unconventional biopic – which focuses on three major product launches from Jobs’ career – currently has an 85% Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, with 156 positive reviews compared to only 27 negative critiques. The cast is top notch, and Aaron Sorkin recently did for Facebook what he’s attempting to do for Apple when he penned The Social Network for David Fincher. That movie nearly broke the $100-million mark domestically, and did top $100 million overseas. Not so much for Steve Jobs.
What’s most puzzling about the poor performance of Steve Jobs is that it really didn’t face stiff competition at the box office. The past few weeks at the box office have been dominated by Sir Ridley Scott’s The Martian, which has been performing extremely well since opening on October 2. But other Oscar-baity titles that would steal focus away from Steve Jobs -- from Room and Brooklyn to Spotlight -- have been holding off their platform release until November, so Steve Jobs had an opportunity to build momentum. Instead, the opposite happened.
This doesn’t mean that the movie’s Oscar chances are done, however, they have decreased. Box office obviously isn’t the only factor that goes in to a successful awards campaign, and films that earned less than Steve Jobs have landed Best Picture nominations. But Universal has to reset its campaign if it hopes to convince people that Steve Jobs is one of the year’s best films, and one that the general public – as well as the Academy – needs to pay attention to.