Why a $16 Million Opening for ‘Downton Abbey 2’ Is a Relief for Theaters

Compared to the past year, ”Downton Abbey: A New Era“ has done a better job bringing in senior audiences.

A sequel earning a $16 million opening weekend that’s half of what its predecessor made wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but that result for Focus Features’ “Downton Abbey: A New Era” is actually a sign of progress for arthouse theaters.

At a time when few films appealing specifically to women and even fewer for older audiences have done well at the box office, projections for the second “Downton Abbey” film never came close to the $31 million that the first film opened to in 2019. With a higher budget of $40 million thanks to on-location shooting in France, “A New Era” will also be less profitable though it has already grossed $51 million globally.

But compare this opening weekend to those of other mature dramas and awards contenders released this past fall. Clint Eastwood, typically a reliable draw for older men, saw his latest film, “Cry Macho,” open to just $4.4 million amidst mixed reviews and a day-and-date release on HBO Max that drew away some interested moviegoers. Steven Spielberg suffered the same fate as the $100 million “West Side Story” limped to a $10.5 million opening.

Even beyond senior-appealing films, “Downton Abbey: A New Era” had a higher opening than Focus Features’ last wide release, “The Northman,” which opened to $12.2 million and hasn’t made back its $70 million budget theatrically. It’s also a step above the $14.8 million made in February by MGM’s “Dog,” another film aimed towards female audiences.

“Considering the context of the marketplace that it opened in, this is a good sign of progress at a time when there aren’t a lot of films for adults,” Comscore analyst Paul Dergarabedian said.

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Jeremy Fuster

Box Office Reporter • jeremy.fuster@thewrap.com • Twitter: @jeremyfuster