When Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in early September, it immediately vaulted itself into contention as a Best Picture front runner. Nearly two months later, the narrative has shifted and it’s mostly due to the picture’s very lackluster box office numbers. It opened nationwide last weekend to a tepid seventh place $7.1 million placing. This weekend, early numbers show it tumbling approximately 65% for a grand total of around $14 million.
If this trend continues (and it probably will), Jobs will be lucky to make $25 million. That would put it barely above the $16 million earned by Jobs in 2013, where Ashton Kutcher played the Apple founder. It’s worth noting that the Kutcher version had no Oscar buzz whatsoever. Therefore, it’s clear that while moviegoers may like Apple’s products, they don’t like watching films about the guy who started the company.
Let there be no confusion: the bad numbers will affect its chances at a gold statue. Most Best Picture winners make decent money and this one isn’t. In 2009, we did see an exception when The Hurt Locker won with just a $17 million domestic take.
I still believe Jobs will find itself in the mix for a nomination and Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet should get nods in Actor and Supporting Actress. Yet my earlier inclination that it could win has dissipated. We are already seeing the spotlight turn to, well, Spotlight – the upcoming journalistic expose about the Catholic Church priest abuse scandal. And there’s still Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s The Revenant left to screen.
Bottom line: box office numbers do often matter when it comes to Oscar chances and Steve Jobs’s numbers have been going in the wrong dIrection.