Set in a different universe — i.e., before the pandemic — Downton Abbey, the film, surpassed all expectations when it opened in September 2019 at a record $31 million for specialty house Focus Features.
A lot has changed since then.
The theatrical adaptation of Julian Fellowes’ hit British TV series in 2019 has been fueled by audiences aged 45 and over – a demo who have been reluctant to return to cinemas since the outbreak of the COVID-19 crisis, and older women in particular.
Fellowes’ sequel Downton Abbey: A New Era Era launched over the weekend for $16 million at 3,815 locations. While consistent with the pre-release, this is well behind the first film and underscores the challenges faced by films that rely on older consumers who may still be nervous about COVID and whose habits are changing in the pandemic era have, since the studios are already offering new releases at home for three weeks via premium VOD.
Certainly Downton Abbey 2 attracted a lot of attention from the over-55s (48 per cent) in a promising sign, but the number of participants wasn’t at the same level as in 2019, when consumers over 55 made up 52 per cent of the opening weekend audience. As with the first film, about 70 percent of A New Era’s audience was female.
Overseas, the well-reviewed Downton Abbey 2 has grossed over $35 million.
Written by Fellowes, the film sees the Grantham family travel to the south of France to uncover the mystery of the Countess Dowager’s newly inherited villa. There is also the matter of a film crew using the abbey to shoot a film.
Recurring cast members 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’s and Disney’s superhero picture Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness had no trouble, posting $31.6 million in its third weekend for a total of $342.1 million domestically and $803.2 million to remain at the top of the charts worldwide to become the #2 pandemic-era movie behind Spider -Man: No Way Home ($1.8 billion).
Doctor Strange 2 accomplished the feat after surpassing the James Bond picture No Time to Die ($774.2 million) released late last year and the more recent superhero picture The Batman ($768.5 million). had passed.
Family films The Bad Guys and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 followed, at $6.1 million and $3.9 million, respectively.
Bad Guys has now grossed $74.4 million domestically and $182.2 million worldwide, while Sonic 2 has grossed $181 million domestically and $375 worldwide by the close of Sunday at $400 million. Dollars (one movie to surpass $400 million this weekend was Uncharted).
A24’s folk horror film Men opened in 2,212 theaters nationwide, timed to coincide with its screening at this weekend’s Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Alex Garland, the film placed fifth with an estimated $3.3 million.
Fellow A24 Everything Everywhere All at Once grossed $3.2 million to take the film’s domestic gross to $52.3 million – the highest-grossing film of all time for the indie distributor, after he gave up Uncut Gems ($50 million).