Universal’s ‘Steve Jobs’ flick bombs: Why Sony was right to pass

“When Amy Pascal allowed ‘Steve Jobs’ to leave Sony for Universal, the studio chief fretted that she had let a modern day ‘Citizen Kane’ slip through her fingers,” Brent Lang reports for Variety. “In the end, Pascal, whose job was already threatened by a string of flops like ‘After Earth’ and ‘White House Down,’ couldn’t justify the risk.”

“‘Steve Jobs’ hit a stumbling block in its national release. It debuted to a measly $7.3 million, only a little more than the $6.7 million that ‘Jobs,’ a critically derided film about the iPhone father with Ashton Kutcher, made in its initial weekend. Going into the weekend, some tracking suggested that the picture would do as much as $19 million,” Lang reports. “So what went wrong?”

MacDailyNews Take: It’s pretty much pure fiction and anybody who knows Steve Jobs and who wasn’t paid by Universal, has lamented that the opportunistic little flick was even made, much less released.

“Universal believes that the picture can recover,” Lang reports. “It’s still hard to see how the film turns a profit. The picture cost $30 million to make and at least as much to market. That means that ‘Steve Jobs’ needs to do at least $120 million in order to break even. Given that the film is dialogue-driven and lacks a major star, its foreign prospects seem bleak. It’s almost entirely a domestic play, and so far it’s only made about $10 million.”

“Few would fault Fassbender’s performance, but his casting may have been disastrous from a commercial standpoint,” Lang reports. “A study by Piedmont Media Research found that audiences’ interest in seeing ‘Steve Jobs’ dipped after they found out Fassbender was headlining the drama. Having a DiCaprio or a Robert Downey Jr. in the title role may have broadened ‘Steve Jobs’ appeal.”

Read more in the full article here.

“Universal and the major studios are in the business of wide releases backed by a major marketing spend, not platform offerings, yet Jobs is playing like a quintessential specialty release,” Pamela McClintock reports for The Hollywood Reporter. “Universal wouldn’t comment on its decision to go wide with Steve Jobs, versus sticking to a platform run until Golden Globe and Oscar nominations are announced. Oscar winners including The King’s Speech and Birdman played for weeks in select theaters before attempting a nationwide break. And Birdman never played in more than 1,213 theaters.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: You can’t call a movie “Steve Jobs” and then make up reams of total fiction. We know the facts. The graphical user interface was not stolen.

Poor Woz. We can imagine how they rode roughshod over him. Woz reportedly got $200,000 for “consulting.” There was no consulting; none that was listened to by Sorkin et al., at least. Otherwise the Woz character would never have said “the graphical user interface was stolen.” If Woz objected, which we assume he must have at some point, they told him “this is how movies are made, Woz.”

No, that $200,000 was paid to have Woz’s backing. It was for marketing and insurance, not consulting. So that these peddlers of lies could, if and when pressed, trot out an Apple co-founder and say, “Look, we have Woz’s approval!”

Well, no, geniuses, no matter who you trot out with a rubber stamp of approval, you cannot have Steve Wozniak say, “the graphical user interface was stolen.” The origin of the GUI is an essential truth. You can’t change that and have it come out of one of the last people on earth who’d ever utter it and expect to retain your core audience. “Steve Jobs” lost us the second we heard that line in the trailer. From then on, we expected the worst. We’re glad it bombed. It deserves to bomb.

Sorkin’s penchant for playing fast and lose with the facts and for concocting scenes and dialog out of whole cloth doomed this mess from the start. Hollywood may heap awards on this thing (or, hopefully, not), but it’s an opportunistic pack of lies regardless.

Aaron Sorkin ‘Steve Jobs’ fantasy flops hard – October 26, 2015
Steve Jobs’ widow continues to speak out against ‘Steve Jobs’ movie – October 22, 2015
Mossberg: The Steve Jobs I knew isn’t in Aaron Sorkin’s ‘Steve Jobs’ movie – October 21, 2015
Why Danny Boyle filmed ‘Steve Jobs’ in three different formats – October 16, 2015
‘Steve Jobs’ movie is fiction, blatantly inaccurate; yet another con job from Aaron Sorkin – October 14, 2015
Paid consultant Woz on ‘Steve Jobs’ movie claims accuracy doesn’t matter – October 13, 2015
Universal releases new 2:20-minute scene from ‘Steve Jobs’ – October 9, 2015
The Steve Jobs in ‘Steve Jobs’ is a fictional character invented by Aaron Sorkin – October 8, 2015
Jony Ive joins chorus of insiders’ complaints about new ‘Steve Jobs’ movie – October 8, 2015
The Strange Saga of ‘Steve Jobs’: A widow’s threats, high-powered spats and the Sony hack – October 7, 2015
‘Steve Jobs’ director Danny Boyle warns of ‘tremendous, terrifying power’ of tech giants like Apple – October 7, 2015
Forbes reviews ‘Steve Jobs’: ‘An electrifying interpretive dance of abstract biographical cinema’ – October 7, 2015
Steve Jobs’ daughter Lisa skips movie screening, but parties with cast – October 7, 2015
Philip Elmer-DeWitt reviews ‘Steve Jobs’ movie: ‘I loved it’ – October 7, 2015
Aaron Sorkin: Steve Jobs just wanted to be loved – October 6, 2015
The ‘Steve Jobs’ movie that Sony, DiCaprio, and Bale didn’t want is now an Oscar favorite – October 6, 2015
Michael Fassbender already the odds-on favorite to win an Oscar for ‘Steve Jobs’ – October 5, 2015
Steve Jobs’ widow and friends take aim at Hollywood over ‘Steve Jobs’ biopic – October 5, 2015
‘Steve Jobs’ biopic too nasty to win Best Picture award – October 2, 2015
Andy Hertzfeld: ‘Steve Jobs’ movie ‘deviates from reality everywhere’ but ‘aspires to explore and expose the deeper truths’ – October 2, 2015
Aaron Sorkin blasts Apple’s Tim Cook over ‘Steve Jobs’ critique: ‘You’ve got a lot of nerve’ – September 25, 2015


  1. Been using an  computer since 1982? Literally cried when Steve left apple. Was a kid. Know everything there is to know. Read every book. Have seen every interview. It’s a great movie. Incredibly acted. Amazing dialogue. It’s just a movie. Henry Hill was ok with the tons they changed and made up for goodfellas. It’s art. And saying the GUI was stolen is a figure of speech. They saw it somewhere else. Yes they paid for it but they didn’t invent it. They tweaked it to what it became. But it’s just a figure of speech. Not a reason to condemn a film YOU HAVEN’T SEEN. It’s a great way to spend 2 hours compared to all the truly crap movies released every week. Now pile on me haters.

    1. Not gonna hate, just trying to understand. If you are a Jobs fan, why bother with a movie with a bunch of made up dialog that is loose with the facts? The people he was talking to are still alive. Steve’s life was full of drama- it didn’t need to be fictionalized!. If it was an accurate depiction, I would be in line to see it- warts and all. I won’t waste my time watching this sorkin revisionist history hit piece.

    2. “saying the GUI was stolen is a figure of speech”

      Ohhh… come OFF it!

      Officer, I saw that guy over there steal that iPhone. His name is EMorgan.

      When “steal” is used as a figure of speech, it is obvious. “Come in today. Our widget is a real steal at only $100.”

      Using “steal” in this movie is NOT a figure of speech… even more especially in the context where people have made that bullshit accusation over, and over, and over, and over.

    3. the whole story arc with his daughter (supposedly the main emotional focus of the story) was also completely off.

      Lisa at the time of the supposed reconciliation shown on the movie was in actuality living with Jobs and Laurene and had been for years.

      “There are moments in the film, like the big “reconciliation” scene with his out-of-wedlock daughter, Lisa, that are almost offensively in opposition to the truth. (Although Jobs’s relationship with Lisa could be volatile at times, she had in fact lived with him and his family all through high school.)”

      That’s not ‘tweaking’ that’s creating a whole ‘character’ (i.e SOB for abandoning his daughter) from something fake.

  2. I am still fascinated by the fact that literally EVERYONE who condemned this film on this forum is doing so without actually SEEING it.

    In the prior thread (as well as here) there is the total of about FIVE people who claim to have seen the movie. Out of those five, FOUR actually LIKED it (the remaining fifth posted entire message in ALL CAPS, with some political rant, so not sure if that one is really indicative of the film itself).

    Can you people please SEE the film first before you pass judgement on it? I mean, you are like my daughter when she was 3 years old. “What is that?” “It is roasted duck. Go on, try it!” “I don’t like roasted duck!” “But try it first!” “No, I don’t LIKE duck! I hate duck!”… My daughter is now 15 and she no longer claims she doesn’t like things until she actually tries them.

    1. I don’t have to personally try EVERYTHING. And I certainly don’t need to spend the time and money on a movie that reports (among many other fictions) that banal, garbage lie that the gui was stolen.

      1. You certainly don’t need to try everything, but it is quite disingenuous to declare some film garbage without ever seeing it, regardless of who wrote the film, who directed it, who starred in it, or who it was about.

        In other words, you have no authority to talk about something you haven’t seen.

        1. To clarify; I haven’t seen the movie. I won’t pay money to see it, for the same reason most of you won’t see it (it being the liberties Sorkin took with historic events in his script).

          I certainly have no intention to declare this film anything (garbage or genius, whatever), since I haven’t seen it. That would essentially eliminate any authority I had regarding anything and everything else I had ever said.

          1. I would suggest the film is, by definition, garbage, because it purports to be about Steve Jobs. Any film that repeats the enormous piece of bullshit that the gui was stolen is… bullshit.

            It doesn’t matter how superb it is as a MOVIE… as a piece of art.

            We could be looking at the best portrait photo of this century. But if it is promoted as being a photo of Steve Jobs while it is actually a photo of me, then it is opportunistic, dishonest bullshit.

            1. I think quite a few people are very much hung up on that one single line of dialogue from the trailer. I know it is probably the most significant misstatement of facts in the history of Apple, the one with which us as Apple fans had been continuously dealing with for the past 30 years; first with Windows legions, now with Fandroids. Still, I refuse to pass judgement on the film because of that one stupid line.

    2. I am condemning because it is a “biopic”, with the subjects name as the title, with made up dialog and fictionalized accounts. Honestly, why would anyone be interested? The facts are out there! Furthermore, with all the interesting stuff to make a Steve Jobs movie about (the behind the scenes process of designing the iPhone, the interplay of engineers and software guys and Steve, the top secret design room with Ives, etc, etc). I don’t care about Steve the immature father- I’d like to know more about Steve the world-changer.

      1. As I said above, before you earn the right to condemn it, you have to go see it first.

        Honestly, biopics (fictionalised films about well known real people) tend to have their audiences, and many are quite successful. You may have no idea why would anyone be interested, but apparently, people do watch this stuff. People also apparently watch Sorkin (a lot), and Danny Boyle seems to have his fans too (as does Fassbender).

        The plot that you suggest would be porn for us geeks, but it is doubtful that broader audiences would find it appealing, regardless of how well it may have been written, directed and acted.

        1. “…before you earn the right to condemn it, you have to go see it first.”

          No. Invalid.

          Relying on trusted sources of information is a valid basis for a discussion. And I trust the numerous sources close to Steve who say (in various polite ways) that it is crap.

          “That would essentially eliminate any authority I had regarding anything and everything else I had ever said.”

          Absolutist much. Do you really only express opinions about matters that you have directly experienced or personally figured out? Do you have any opinion on whether starts exist or not? I think the only condition is to say, “I haven’t seen it. I’m basing my opinion on X, Y and Z, who have said that…..”

            1. Uh, no. You see tiny dots of light. There is NOTHING in that visual experience that tells you what science says they are. So it’s a great example of where you, I presume, believe what someone else says and where you could, if you wished, have conversations based on what stars are and how far away they are.

          1. I concede your point (“Absolutist much…”), but in this case, I stand very much by my original statement, and the main reason is quite valid: while the vast majority (practically everyone) of those who are condemning the film haven’t seen it, vast majority of the few who reported seeing it seem to have liked it. Statistically, this tells me that I shouldn’t necessarily trust all those sources close to Steve; after all, they have a very personal, emotional and subjective attachment.

            In other words, when data sources aren’t quite consistent, and especially when none of them are 100% reliable, the only way for me to form an opinion behind which I could comfortably stand is to actually watch it myself.

            I don’t have an opinion regarding starts, as I’m not exactly sure what is it that you’re asking.

            1. about
              “Statistically, this tells me that I shouldn’t necessarily trust all those sources close to Steve; after all, they have a very personal, emotional and subjective attachment.”

              For me, I’d change that to
              “Statistically, this tells me that I shouldn’t necessarily trust all those sources NOT close to Steve; after all, they DON’T have a very personal, emotional and subjective attachment.”

              We’re discussing two different things, although I was intending to discuss only the second.
              1. Whether it’s a good movie… just as a movie. It may be a good “movie”, as some have said. I don’t care, because that consideration is overridden, for me, by #2.
              2. Whether it is a decent/fitting/appropriate portrayal of Steve.
              And those who are best able to judge that are those who personally or professionally knew him. And they are saying it is a movie of inaccuracy, omissions and outright lies.

            2. I am not really watching a movie to learn about Steve. After all, I have already read most of what there is to read about Steve (Isaacson, Schlender, Lashinski, etc.), so I’m watching a movie as a good movie.

              What sends surprising signals is that people who know a lot about Apple and Jobs, and who saw the movie, still say that, despite inaccuracies, it was good.

              And I’ll reiterate my first point: people who have emotional and personal attachment can’t possibly be objective judges of this film. I can’t trust those who were so emotionally close to Jobs; much more objective and reliable sources are people like Schlender, Mossberg, Lashinski and other journalists (even Isaacsson) who some spent time talking to him and observing the company.

              We seem to disagree on some fundamentals.

            3. The one line is just one example, that I mention because we all know the lie so well.

              “much more objective and reliable sources are people like … Mossberg,”

              Would that be the same Mossberg who wrote,
              … the Steve Jobs portrayed in Sorkin’s film isn’t the man I knew.

              Sorkin chose to cherry-pick and exaggerate some of the worst aspects of Jobs’ character, and to focus on a period of his career when he was young and immature.

              It would be as if you made a movie called JFK almost entirely focused on Kennedy’s womanizing and political rivalries, and said nothing about civil rights and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Sorkin opts to end his story just as Jobs is poised to both reel off an unprecedented string of world-changing products and to mature into a much broader, kinder manager and person.

              my love of Sorkin’s other work doesn’t mean I think he did right by Steve Jobs. Because he simply didn’t.
              In fact, he treats Jobs worse than his purely fictional characters.

  3. For what it’s worth, here’s why I didn’t see “Jobs”, and won’t be seeing “Steve Jobs” or any other movie about the man: I just want the world to move on and let him rest in peace. I am sick of the deification of Jobs, and even more sick of the backlash it generates. If I see one more f***ing Reddit post about how Bill Gates is a saint because he’s giving all his ill-gotten gains to charity, and how Jobs was a horrible person because he didn’t trumpet his charitable contributions to the heavens and so therefore clearly didn’t make any, I’m going to scream.

    Steve Jobs was a genius CEO. He shepherded the creation of several devices that made us very happy. Can’t we just leave it at that, and let the man rest?


  4. To quote Richard von Busack reviewing in metroactive:

    “Sorkin has got to the point that most scriptwriters arrive at: the point where the belief that there’s no business like show business evolves into the belief that all businesses are like show business. “

  5. There are only two conditions under I will watch this film (but I must admit, I’m nonetheless curious to see it):

    1. I don’t have to pay extra for it (i.e. when it shows up on premium cable or Netflix);
    2. I have two hours of time to kill (for example, when my home Mac is rendering some effects, or doing something else, and I’m too tired to read a book).

    I still must admit I was surprised that there are several regular MDN readers who saw the film and, despite everything they read about it, they actually liked it. What is most surprising is that these people are MDN regulars, Apple fans and quite knowledgeable regarding Apple, Jobs, and the whole story. The short summary of their comments is that, even though that the film was factually fast & loose, they still liked the characters and the plot line.

    This is the reason I will withhold any judgement until I actually see the thing (if I ever do).

  6. Everyone watch “Pirates of Silicon Valley”
    The best depiction of personalities and events of those times !
    Not a high budget movie but never the less great !

    1. I loved this one. I saw the world premier live after the super bowl like 16 years ago when it was first released.

      I also saw Jobs and this new Steve Jobs. I love all three stories, even if the latter two were mostly fiction.

      If Apple were to produce their own original series instead of a bunch of movies from third parties, I think it would be more successful, more accurate, and more interesting. Good luck with that, though, considering Cook wants to keep Jobs only in the memories of those who directly knew him, and none of his millions of fans who would love to get to know him even after death.

  7. Has it really? The movie has been in wide release only one or two days and it’s already a failure?

    Nonsense. It might be underperforming, but there’s plenty of time for it to catch on (especially considering that, budget-wise, it’s relatively cheap).

  8. The star doesn’t look like Steve, doesn’t even attempt to wear his hair like Steve, they didn’t even darken it, just wasn’t believable. Every time I saw a preview I could not buy into that guy being Steve. I skipped it.

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