In another universe — i.e., before the pandemic — Downton Abbey the movie blew away all expectations when opening to $31 million in September 2019 in a record-best for specialty house Focus Features.
Much has changed in the time since.
The 2019 big-screen adaptation of Julian Fellowes’ hit British TV series was fueled by moviegoers 45 and older — a demo that has been the most reluctant to return to cinemas since the COVID-19 crisis struck, and particularly older females. Nearly half of ticket buyers were over 55.
Over the weekend, Fellowes’ sequel Downton Abbey: A New Era Era opened to $16 million from 3,815 locations. While that’s in line with prerelease tracking, it’s notably behind the first film and underscores the challenges facing movies relying on older consumers who could still be nervous about COVID, and whose habits have changed in the streaming era. Certainly, the movie attracted plenty of attention from those 55 and older (48 percent), but the number of people turning out wasn’t at the same levels. More than 70 percent of ticket buyers were female.
Overseas, the well-reviewed Downton Abbey 2 has earned north of $35 million.
Written by Fellowes, the movie sees the Grantham family journey to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the Dowager Countess’ newly inherited villa. There’s also the matter of a movie crew using the Abbey to shoot a film.
Returning members of the principal cast and new additions include Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Raquel Cassidy, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Michael Fox, Harry Hadden-Paton, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Lesley Nicol, Douglas Reith, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton, Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye and Dominic West.
Marvel and Disney’s superhero pic Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had no trouble staying atop the chart in its third weekend with $31.6 million for a domestic total of $342.1 million and $803.2 million globally to become the No. 2 film of the pandemic era behind Spider-Man: No Way Home ($1.8 billion).
Family films The Bad Buys and Sonic the Hedeghog 2 followed with $6.1 million and $3.9 million, respectively.
A24’s folk horror film Men opened nationwide in 2,212 theaters timed to its screening at the Cannes Film Festival this weekend. Directed by Alex Garland, the movie place fifth with an estimated $3.3 million.
Fellow A24 title Everything Everywhere All at Once grossed $3.2 million to push the film’s domestic total to $52.3 million — the top-grossing film of all time for the indie distributor after passing up Uncut Gems ($50 million).
More to come.