Focus Features/Carnival’s “Downton Abbey” is blowing by opening weekend expectations after grossing $13.8 million on Friday and is now expected to take No. 1 with a $31 million opening weekend.
To the surprise of box office trackers, moviegoers have accepted Lord Grantham’s invitation en masse. Released on 3,079 screens — Focus’ widest release since “Atomic Blonde” in 2017 — “Downton Abbey” is now on pace to set a new opening weekend record for Universal’s indie wing, topping the $22.7 million made by “Insidious: Chapter 3” in 2015.
With a passionate fanbase of the hit ITV/PBS TV series to draw from, “Downton Abbey” was expected by analysts to be a hit. However, a more modest opening in the $18-20 million range was expected with a strong hold in later weeks thanks to support from older moviegoers.
Sure enough, Postrak polls show that half of the audience was over the age of 45, but support from younger demographics has helped push the film to this new record. “Downton Abbey” fans are unsurprisingly pleased to see the Dowager Countess and her family again, giving “Downton Abbey” high marks with an A on CinemaScore and a 4.5/5 on Postrak to go with the 84% score from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
In second is Fox/Disney’s “Ad Astra,” the complex sci-fi film from James Gray and Brad Pitt that pleased critics at festivals but has left audiences cold. More like “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Solaris” than an action-packed astronaut film, audience scores for the film have been tepid with a 2.5/5 on Postrak and a B- on CinemaScore as opposed to 82% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes.
“Ad Astra” is projected for a $19.5 million opening from 3,460 screens this weekend, a poor result given the film’s $80 million budget before reshoots. The movie will now have to turn to overseas to recoup its costs and avoid becoming another flop for a Fox slate that has struggled since the Disney acquisition.
Neck-and-neck for the No. 3 spot are the debuting “Rambo: Last Blood” and the second weekend of “Hustlers,” both estimated to earn around $17.5 million this weekend. The Lionsgate-released “Rambo” is performing consistently with both tracker expectations and past installments in the action series, as the last “Rambo” opened to $18.2 million in 2008.
“Hustlers,” meanwhile, is holding well despite somewhat unexpected competition from “Downton Abbey” for female moviegoers, dropping only 47% from its STX record $33 million opening. It now is expected to have a 10-day domestic total of $63 million. Warner Bros./New Line’s “It: Chapter Two” completes the top five with an estimated $15.6 million in its third weekend, bringing its total to $177.5 million.