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Thud Went the Steve Jobs Biopic That Wasn't

Universal thought "Steve Jobs" would be a hit. Audiences thought different.

Universal Studios

Call it a biopic. Call it fiction. It doesn’t matter: Audiences didn’t want to see “Steve Jobs.”

Aaron Sorkin’s movie hit the nation’s theaters this weekend with a resounding thud, bringing in a mere $7.3 million in its first weekend of wide release. That ranked it in seventh place in the domestic box office, behind “Hotel Transylvania 2” and “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension,” according to Rentrak’s estimates.

The Hollywood press offered a variety of explanations why moviegoers snubbed the film, from the casting of actor Michael Fassbender in the title role to the embarrassment of riches for theatergoers looking for cerebral entertainment, including Oscar contenders “Bridge of Spies” and “The Martian.”

But the answer could be as simple as this: Screenwriter Sorkin insists that his story was not the story of Steve Jobs’s life. So why bother?

Although film critics lavished praise on the film, writers who actually knew Jobs — among them, Re/code co-founder and longtime Wall Street Journal personal technology columnist Walt Mossberg and New York Times columnist Joe Nocera — pilloried it for doing a poor job of portraying one of the most significant figures in technology.

Universal Pictures*, the studio that released the film, said it’s doing well in urban markets and getting strong word-of-mouth momentum.

“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,” Nick Carpou, Universal’s domestic distribution chief, told Variety. “The critics are there for it and the buzz in these markets is strong.”

Jobs’s widow, Laurene Powell Jobs, must be satisfied. She actively worked to obstruct the film and, according to the Hollywood Reporter, went so far as to call actors under consideration for the Jobs role — Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale — and urge them not to do the film.

* Universal Pictures is a unit of Comcast, which is an investor in Re/code parent Vox Media.

Check out Walt Mossberg’s new podcast, Ctrl-Walt-Delete

Ctrl-Walt-Delete is a weekly podcast featuring Walt Mossberg and Nilay Patel. For easy access to new episodes, follow on Soundcloud or subscribe on iTunes.

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