In 2013, Jobs, a tidy bit of hagiography starring Ashton Kutcher as Steve Jobs, opened to $6.7 million. The poor showing wasn’t surprising: Jobs is not a very good movie, and even the recent death of its subject couldn’t spur audience interest.
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. The money practically prints itself! Except Steve Jobs limped through its national release this weekend, collecting a mere $7.2 million after a spry start on the limited circuit. Given that the aforementioned supernova of starpower was worth, in ticket sales, only half a million more than Ashton Kutcher with this haircut, it would seem that Jobs’ cult of personality does not have much pull at the megaplex.
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. A better hypothesis? 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). Advice for the studios: Think different.