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'Steve Jobs' expected to win the weekend as it expands to wide release

'Steve Jobs' expected to win the weekend as it expands to wide release
In this image released by Universal Pictures, Michael Fassbender stars as Steve Jobs in a scene from "Steve Jobs." (AP)

Universal Pictures' "Steve Jobs" likely will give the studio another No. 1 opening at the box office when it expands into wide release this weekend.

The film, which cost $30 million to make, could add $18 million to $20 million when it expands to 2,491 theaters in the U.S. and Canada, according to people familiar with pre-release audience surveys.

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Written by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Danny Boyle (who won the Oscar for directing "Slumdog Millionaire"), "Steve Jobs" stars Michael Fassbender as the Apple co-founder. It co-stars Kate Winslet as longtime Jobs deputy Joanna Hoffman, Seth Rogen as company co-founder Steve Wozniak and Jeff Daniels as former Apple CEO John Sculley.

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It has seen strong turnouts in limited release. It launched with $521,000 in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles, making it the highest-grossing limited release of the year with a $130,381 per-screen average. To date, it has collected $2.34 million.

Universal has had a blockbuster year already, propelled by "Jurassic World," "Furious 7," "Minions" and most recently, "Straight Outta Compton." Even if "Steve Jobs" does not draw in massive numbers, it still will add to the studio's list of 2015 hits.

"I would almost bet more on 'Steve Jobs' being No. 1 simply because it's got the Universal magic going for it," said Paul Dergarabedian, a senior media analyst for research firm Rentrak. "They have had one of those years where they can do no wrong. They wind up on top and make it seem easy."

If "Jobs" does end up at No. 1, Dergarabedian said it will validate Universal's strategy to go limited first.

"I think it was really smart for Universal to do that," he said. "It's a very, very crowded marketplace for sophisticated dramas right now. But 'Jobs' has so much going for it that I think it can rise above the noise. This will be a film people will want to see over the long term."

Many critics already have given "Jobs" a thumbs-up, buzzing about its Oscar potential. As of Tuesday, the film has a solid 85% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

But there are some people who have had less favorable reviews. Ahead of the film's release, Apple CEO Tim Cook called it "opportunistic." Some friends and family of Jobs' recently told The Times they dislike the "caricature" portrayal of him in the film. There also were mixed opinions from moviegoers in Silicon Valley.

Still, the film is expected to fare better than Ashton Kutcher's 2013 portrayal of "Jobs," which did not resonate with moviegoers. It was poorly reviewed and ended up scoring just a B- CinemaScore grade and opened with $6.7 million.

The second-place spot for the weekend is expected to be between Paramount Pictures' "Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension," from Blumhouse, Solana Films and Room 101 Inc., and Lionsgate's "The Last Witch Hunter."

Early tracking suggests "Ghost Dimension" could make anywhere from $12 million to $16 million. The studio has a more modest forecast of about $10 million to $12 million for the opening.

The film will play at over 1,500 locations, a reduced screen count of 40% to 50% from the prior Paranormal film.

"The Last Witch Hunter," which stars Vin Diesel, may outpace Paramount's final horror installment with an opening of up to $17 million.

The Mark Canton, One Race Films and Goldmann Pictures production is geared toward moviegoers of all ages, particularly males. It follows the story of Kaulder, the last living witch hunter, who has spent his immortal life tracking down rogue witches.

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Universal also will release "Jem and the Holograms," which cost $5 million to make. The film, based on the '80s Hasbro animated television series, is looking at an opening in the $5 million to $7 million range.

Open Road Films' new release "Rock The Kasbah," starring Bill Murray, is on track to debut with around the same amount.

The rockumentary comedy, directed by Oscar-winner Barry Levinson ("Diner," "Rain Man," "Sleepers"), follows a washed-up rock manager (Murray) seeking a comeback by way of Afghanistan.

For more news on the entertainment industry, follow me @saba_h.

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