Downton Abbey: A New Era began its North American box office run with a promising $1.1 million in Thursday evening previews from 3,300 theaters.
It isn’t a surprise that the sequel came in behind the first Downton Abbey, which earned $1.5 million in previews in September 2019 on is way to an elegant, record-breaking $31 million domestic opening for specialty distributor Focus Features.
The 2019 big-screen adaptation of Julian Fellowes’ hit British TV series was fueled by older moviegoers — a demo that has been the the most reluctant to return to cinemas since the COVID-19 crisis struck, particularly older females.
Downton Abbey: A New Era will be a key test of whether consumers 45 and older are ready to come to cinemas en masse or will opt to wait until the movie is available in the home. Also, Focus’ marketing campaign has tried to broaden the appeal of the film to younger consumers.
By Friday, the sequel will be playing in 3,815 locations, the widest release in the history of the Universal-owned Focus.
Tracking suggests the film will open in the mid-teens, but all involved are hoping it overperforms. On the publicity tour for Downton Abby 2, both Focus president Peter Kujawski and Fellowes have talked about building a lasting franchise.
Overseas, where it rolled out early in the U.K. and other select markets, Downton Abbey 2 has grossed north of $30 million to date. Universal Pictures International is handling foreign distribution.
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.