Downton Abbey proves enduring popularity with $31 million debut at the box office
Violet (Maggie Smith) may never ask “What is a weekend?” again considering the Downton Abbey movie just won it.
Exceeding expectations, Downton Abbey opened to $31 million, proving a healthy appetite for the historical series, co-produced by ITV and PBS, which ended its television run in 2016. The film, which follows the excitement of a royal visit to Downton, posted one of the biggest openings ever for a TV to big-screen adaptation, excluding major franchises like Mission Impossible and Star Trek.
It’s a good weekend for new releases in general with the top three slots at the box office dominated by new titles. Brad Pitt continues his starry summer with a $19.2 million second-place opening for space epic Ad Astra. A more tried and trued title takes third place with Sylvester Stallone’s end to the Rambo franchise Rambo: Last Blood taking in an estimated $19 million in ticket sales.
Rumors of a Downton Abbey film persisted before the series even concluded its very popular run in 2016, and the film hit U.S. theaters with heavy anticipation after already running overseas in the U.K. market for a week. Written by series creator Julian Fellowes, it reunites the bulk of its original cast members, including Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech, and Elizabeth McGovern for a continuation of the story of the Crawley family and their servants. A royal visit throws the household into chaos as everyone struggles to prepare for the King and Queen, whilst dealing with unexpected romance, assassination plots, and more.
Directed by frequent series helmer Michael Engler, Downton Abbey beat the odds to win the weekend and proved its enduring popularity. The debut marks the biggest opening weekend ever for speciality distributor Focus Features. Producers have suggested that the possibility of a sequel hinged on the film’s success in the North American market, and these returns are a solid argument for more Downton. The film has earned solid reviews, but most importantly, it’s clearly resonating with fans, garnering a sterling A CinemaScore.
While a passel of British TV stars took the top spot, one of America’s biggest movie stars lays claim to second place. After a stellar summer with Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Brad Pitt is kicking off an interstellar fall with Ad Astra. The movie star plays astronaut Roy McBride, who travels to the outer reaches of space to find his missing father and unravel a mystery that threatens our planet. Directed by James Gray, the film also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Liv Tyler, Donald Sutherland, and Ruth Negga.
Pitt is already earning Oscar buzz for the role (as well as his Once Upon a Time in Hollywood performance). With $19.2 million, it’s far from his best opening of all time — it’s in 18th place behind 2011’s Moneyball. Ad Astra slightly exceeded expectations, especially given that its release has been delayed several times. Audiences didn’t love it, giving it a mediocre B- CinemaScore.
Sylvester Stallone has a habit of making good at the box office with enduring franchises, and he’s saying goodbye to the franchise that made him an international action star. Rambo: Last Blood is set to be the final title in the Rambo franchise, and its $19 million third-place opening is on track with the previous 2008 installment, Rambo, which opened to $18.2 million.
The 73-year-old Stallone returns as Rambo, who finds himself facing off against one of Mexico’s most violent cartels when the daughter of one of his friends is kidnapped. Directed by Adrian Grunberg, it also stars Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Oscar Jaenada, Joaquin Cosio, Adriana Barraza, Yvette Monreal, and Genie Kim. Fans gave it a middling B CinemaScore.
Other September success stories round out the top five. It: Chapter Two takes fourth place in its third weekend of release with an estimated $17.2 million in ticket sales. Last weekend’s buzzy female driven flick Hustlers drops to fifth place with an estimated additional $17 million in ticket sales added to its cumulative gross. In just 10 days, Hustlers has grossed $62.6 million domestically, over three times its $20 million production budget.
Overall box office is down 5.2 percent to date, according to Comscore, a steadily improving number buoyed by the success of three new releases this weekend. Check out the Sept. 20-22 numbers below.
1. Downton Abbey— $31 million
2. Ad Astra— $19.2 million
3. Rambo: Last Blood— $19 million
4. It: Chapter Two— $17.2 million
5. Hustlers— $17 million
6. The Lion King— $2.6 million
7. Good Boys— $2.5 million
8. Angel Has Fallen— $2.4 million
9. Overcomer— $1.5 million
10. Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw — $1.5 million