Steve Jobs biopic flops

LOS ANGELES • 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.

The film directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 2009) generated US$7.3 million (S$10.2 million) in United States and Canadian theatres, about a third of what BoxOffice.com analysts had estimated. Instead of dominating the box office as predicted, it limped in at No. 7.

Sony sold the Steve Jobs project late last year after rejecting the cast and budget the film-makers wanted, a dispute that was revealed in e-mail leaked following a cyber attack. Its troubled production was drawn out in public, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale passing on the Jobs role and senior Apple executives chastising film- makers for their portrayal of Jobs.

The hope for Universal Pictures, which acquired the film from Sony, is that it will win awards for Michael Fassbender's critically acclaimed portrayal of Jobs - as that may help boost ticket sales in the long run.

"We are going to be talking about Jobs for many weeks to come," Mr Nick Carpou, president of domestic distribution for Universal, said in an interview. "The story of Steve Jobs hasn't been written yet." He said Universal was not wrong to pick up the film from Sony. "It is a tremendous movie," he said. "We are just as proud today to be associated with this film as we were from the beginning."

The film cost US$30 million to make, not including marketing costs, according to researcher Box Office Mojo. It generated almost US$10 million through Sunday, a sum the studio has to split with theatres. 

The film had also received backlash from Apple chief executive Tim Cook and Jobs' widow Laurene Powell Jobs. Cook described it as "opportunistic", while Mrs Jobs took to Twitter to praise Walt Mossberg's review in The Verge which said that it did not reflect the man he knew. Apple design chief Jony Ive called it a "heartbreaking" hijacking.

The weekend box office also saw new films, including Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension and Vin Diesel's The Last Witch Hunter, pulverised.

Their failures allowed a trio of holdovers - The Martian, Goosebumps and Bridge Of Spies - to retain the top three spots on the box office chart.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 27, 2015, with the headline 'Steve Jobs biopic flops'. Print Edition | Subscribe