Gentility and peak TV won the day at the box office Friday, and should command the weekend as well.
Julian Fellowes’ delightful “Downton Abbey” transfer to the big screen knocked out both Brad Pitt’s “Ad Astra” and Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo: First Blood” last night. Including Thursday previews, the Crawley family and their friends are the big box office winners today.
This means that Focus Features, the literary end of Universal Pictures, will have its biggest opening weekend ever with $31 million. This is quite an achievement. It’s due to Universal being under the same roof as NBC, which also owns Carnival Productions, the company that made the hit TV series broadcast here on PBS. Imagine if NBC had broadcast “Downton.”
On Thursday night, “Downton” easily took “Ad Astra” and “Rambo” in previews. This isn’t to say anything negative about “As Astra,” a gorgeous film with a sensitive lead performance from Pitt.
But “Downton” has its huge, devoted fan base as a foundation. And then, it’s really a lovely film, so well written, directed, and acted, you’re ready to see it again. And I’m pretty sure fans will do exactly that. Word of mouth should be excellent.
As Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) and I joked at the splendid premiere this past week at the Plaza Hotel, “Downton Abbey” could become like the “Avengers” series, with 11 episodes! But really, we can expect a sequel or two definitely. Smartly, Fellowes has left the door open for Maggie Smith to return as the Dowager Countess even though she suggests that this is her last rodeo.
It should be noted too that “Downton Abbey” had the lowest theater count of the three movies in competition.
Friday numbers including Thursday previews: “Downton” $13.8 million, “Ad Astra” $7 million, “Rambo”–$7.1 million. The latter two are basically tied.