Weekend Box Office

Weekend Box Office Results: Downton Abbey's Staggering $31 Million Victory

Clutch your pearls! The adaptation of the beloved TV series just smashed Rambo: Last Blood and Brad Pitt's Ad Astra on the weekend of September 20-22.

by | September 22, 2019 | Comments

Who says adults don’t go to the movies? Well those who watch popular British television shows do, apparently. Whoever at Focus Features greenlit the big-screen adaptation of Downton Abbey may be getting a nice bonus for the holiday. Brad Pitt and John Rambo were no match for the Crawley family this weekend, as Downton defied expectations and topped the box office with a cool $31 million. The hit movie also grossed more this weekend than 109 of the Focus’s 133 releases grossed total since the company debuted with Billy Elliot back in 2000.

King of the Crop: Downton Abbey Lords It Over the Competition, Sets Sights on $100 Million

Downton Abbey

The numbers for Downton Abbey are pretty staggering. Tracking services had it lowballed to $11-$12 million at first (only to later balloon up to around double that) but it seems its fanbase was loyal enough to show up and pay for something they got free from 2010-15. Focus really pulled something special off here. The studio has certainly put out a number of critically-acclaimed films over the years, including Atonement, Lost in Translation, and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – and Downton is no exception, Certified Fresh at 85% on the Tomatometer – but their highest opening weekend until now was Insidious: Chapter 3, which grossed $22.6 million in 2015.

Downton Abbey has already eclipsed that and now has its eye on Focus’s all-time grosser. Worldwide, that title belongs to the Gerard Butler sequel, London Has Fallen, which made over $205 million, but domestically it is the Oscar-winning Brokeback Mountain, grossing $83 million. The only big-screen adaptations to start with over $30 million and not reach that number are the comedies Bruno ($60.05 million) and The Dukes of Hazzard ($80.27 million) and if that is possible, could $100 million possibly be on the table too? For perspective, Hustlers opened to a similar $33.1 million last week and dipped 49% to $17 million for a total of $62 million after 10 days. That puts it roughly a million dollars ahead of the 2016 Magnificent Seven remake, which topped out at $93.4 million. Will Downton Abbey be frontloaded or do adults finally have a nice PG-rated film they can recommend to their friends?

The Top 10 and Beyond: Ad Astra Made A Smart Move, Rambo Takes One Last (?) Go at Box Office Glory

Ad Astra
(Photo by 20th Century Fox)

Industry watchers had one thing right about this week’s box office race: it was a crowded top five. Coming up with a narrow victory for second place was James Gray’s Ad Astra. Originally slated for a May release with nary a first trailer out there yet in April, Fox smartly moved it to a September slot. That likely made them a few more bucks as nearly everything was being swallowed up that month by Avengers: Endgame, though they were probably hoping for an opening in the $20 million region. A $19.2 million start is in the middle of Pitt’s headliners and while critics are supporting the film (it’s Certified Fresh at 83%), audiences may find its introspective approach to sci-fi challenging. We’ll set the first estimate for the film between $47 million and $57 million, which means the international audience will have to chip in to cover the reported $80 million budget. The film has grossed an additional $26 million outside North America.

From one film challenging the notion of the alpha male to one that’s the embodiment of it, Rambo: Last Blood in all its 78-minute glory (sans credits) hit theaters as well. (The film runs longer in international markets thanks to an opening prologue cut from American audiences.) If we consider inflation to chart the course of the series: First Blood back in 1982 would have opened to $17.6 million and go on to gross $125.5 million; things exploded in 1985 when Rambo: First Blood Part II opened with the equivalent of a $48.1 million first weekend and earned a $358 million final haul; Rambo III in 1988 would have started with $28.2 million in today’s dollars and finish with $116.4 million. Thirty years later, Rambo would equate to a $21.6 million start and a $50.9 million finish. Now in 2019, Last Blood has started with $19 million and is likely to drop off with the same expediency as the fourth entry, which may get the film to between $45 million and $50 million.

It Chapter Two
(Photo by Brooke Palmer/© 2019 WARNER BROS. ENTERTAINMENT INC.)

In a strange coincidence – they’re both movies about malevolent creatures terrorizing children – It: Chapter Two is right behind last year’s big-screen animated version of The Grinch after 17 days of release. With $179.17 million after a $17.25 million third weekend, the movie is more on par with Steven Spielberg’s War of the Worlds and Solo: A Star Wars Story than any of the animated and family films with a similar tally. We are dropping its final estimate slightly from last week down to $220-$225 million; the film has grossed over $382 million worldwide to date. In milestones this weekend, Hobbs & Shaw crossed the $750 million mark and Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood passed $200 million on the international market, bringing its worldwide total to $344 million.

Finally, Amazon keeps trying but has not been able to get Brittany Runs a Marathon into the top 10, where it can get some further headlines. The film finished 12th this weekend in 1,033 theaters, grossing $1.5 million for a total of $5 million, the studio’s third-highest domestic grosser to date. On the plus side, that is more than Warner Bros.’ The Goldfinch, which fell 71% this weekend and has made just $4.5 million to date.

This Time Last Year: Audiences Chose PG Chills Over Political Thrills

The House With the Clock in Its Walls (Universal Pictures)
(Photo by © Universal Pictures)

As The Nun was passing the $100 million mark, Eli Roth’s PG-rated children’s film, The House with a Clock In Its Walls, opened at number 1 with $26.6 million, while Michael Moore’s documentary about Donald Trump, Fahrenheit 11/9, was roundly ignored and opened in eighth place with just $3 million. That is still better than two of the lowest per-theater-averages of the year that did not even make the top 10: Amazon’s Life Itself, which made just $2.12 million in 2,609 theaters for a $814 PTA and Neon’s Assassination Nation, which made $1.05 million in 1,403 theaters for a $748 PTA. The top 10 films grossed a total of $78.31 million and averaged 63.9% on the Tomatometer; this weekend’s top 10 grossed an estimated $113.91 million, which is good enough for the third-best September weekend ever for the top 10 films. The Tomatometer had a nearly identical average with 63.8%.

On the Vine: A Second Serving of Yeti Fun

A week before Warner Bros.’ Joker is set to dominate, Universal is hoping to grab some of that Smallfoot money from last year with Abominable. This second recent animated flick about a Yeti opens about a year from when Smallfoot opened to $23 million on its way to $83.2 million and over $214 million worldwide. It is the only film opening in wide release next week, though the hotly anticipated Judy – with Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland – opens in limited release.

The Full Top 10: September 20–22

  1. Downton Abbey (2019) 84% – $31 million ($31 million total)
  2. Ad Astra (2019) 84% – $19.21 million ($19.21 million total)
  3. Rambo: Last Blood (2019) 27% – $19.02 million ($19.02 million total)
  4. It Chapter Two (2019) 63% – $17.25 million ($179.17 million total)
  5. Hustlers (2019) 87% – $17 million ($62.55 million total)
  6. The Lion King (2019) 53% – $2.57 million ($537.59 million total)
  7. Good Boys (2019) 80% – $2.51 million ($77.31 million total)
  8. Angel Has Fallen (2019) 39% – $2.4 million ($64.69 million total)
  9. Overcomer (2019) 50% – $1.5 million ($31.57 million total)
  10. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019) 67% – $1.46 million ($170.61 million total)

Erik Childress can be heard each week evaluating box office on WGN Radio with Nick Digilio as well as on Business First AM with Angela Miles and his Movie Madness Podcast.

[box office figures via Box Office Mojo]

Thumbnail image by Liam Daniel / © Focus Features 

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