Danny Boyle Blames ‘Steve Jobs’ Box Office on Universal’s Release Strategy
While the aptly-named Steve Jobs biopic Steve Jobs has drawn a host of positive reviews, the box-office receipts have been rather lackluster. After three weeks of exhibition in wide release, the film — which boasts a script from the most well-known screenwriter alive and performances from three big-name stars — has a paltry $16.9 million to show for itself. Weighed against the film’s budget of $30 million, that’s a pretty dire figure. Someone’s got to answer for what Universal executives will surely deem a failure if the film doesn’t clean up come awards season, and director Danny Boyle has no intention of taking the blame.
In a new interview with the BBC, Boyle ascribed the film’s difficulties in finding an audience to Universal’s release strategy. Boyle barely conveyed any hard feelings, using the most diplomatic of language and acknowledging all that Universal did to get this troubled production off the ground:
“Universal [has] been exemplary in the way they’ve stood up for the film, promoted it and supported us throughout the whole process – and I think are genuinely very proud of the film. Sure, you might have done it in a different way … But you’ve got to get on now.”
But still, Boyle sees the speed with which Universal expanded to a wide release as questionable. He suggests that the film may have stood a better chance in America’s neighborhood multiplexes if the film had been given a bit more time to gather buzz while screening in major cities. Quoth Boyle:
“It’s very disappointing that when it was released wide across America it didn’t really work. So it’s retreated back now to the main cities… It’s very easy in hindsight [to speculate], but I think it’s probably that we released it too wide too soon.”
The strategy was rather unusual, with Steve Jobs drawing a healthy gross when it premiered in four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, then faltering when pushed to 2,493 screens across America. Panicked, Universal executives scaled back to 421 screens, where the film has been left to quietly die. Oscar season may vindicate Universal’s odd choices, but in the meantime, executives at Sony are probably having themselves a nice chuckle over this one.