This weekend was all about the grown-ups at the box office, with three new adult-skewing titles taking the top slots. The film version of ‘Downton Abbey’, the most successful British TV show of all time, took #1, besting Brad Pitt’s cerebral sci-fi flick ‘Ad Astra’ which landed at #2, and Sylvester Stallone’s return in ‘Rambo: Last Blood’. Adding to the success of last week’s debut ‘Hustlers’, this goes to show that fans can be enticed to theaters with alternative fare, in the absence of big-budget Disney event pics, or perhaps more accurately, as a relief after the popcorn bonanza of the summer.
‘Downton Abbey’s $31 million opening marks the highest ever for studio Focus Features and its first #1 movie in nine years. The majority of ‘Downton Abbey’s audience was over 55 years in age, which makes it a smart move that it was released to theaters versus streaming. Yes, this movie is based on a TV show, but that audience isn’t big into streaming, so a theatrical release proved to be a better choice. The film’s budget was just $20M, so it’s already recouped that. It’s kind of amazing that ‘Downton Abby’ did so well considering that screenings after 8pm are EMPTY. (That’s Nanna and Pop Pop’s bedtime.) Nanna and Aunt Patty gave it a glowing A CinemaScore and 4½ stars via PostTrak. Unfortunately, Nanna will now be asking when the next episode comes on for the next year or until they make a sequel.
It’s doubly impressive that ‘Downton Abbey’ topped ‘Ad Astra’ as the latter had the benefit of all (or at least most) of the premium screens (IMAX, 3D, etc.). That’s what gave ‘Ad Astra’ the advantage over ‘Rambo’– $19.1M versus $18.3M. ‘Ad Astra’s budget was reportedly $80-$100M before advertising, so OUCH.
Unfortunately, they split the same older male audience. There were some that felt that Fox/New Recency should have pushed ‘Ad Astra’ back a week, but the film has a great 82% Rotten Tomatoes ranking and it got a fantastic reception at the Venice Film Festival a few weeks ago, so it makes sense to have tried cashing in on that buzz before it faded. It just didn’t work.
It’s also not clicking with audiences who giving it disappointing exit scores– B- CinemaScore, 2½ stars PostTrak.
Tracking for ‘Rambo: Last Blood’ was high and some thought it could challenge ‘Downton Abbey’ for the #1 spot. Some expected this to be a franchise-high opening. But this $18.3M is just barely higher than the $18.2M debut of the 2008 ‘Rambo’. This is, however, expected to do well overseas. Critics hate it to the tune of a 31% RT score. Audiences gave it a B CinemaScore and 3½ stars through PostTrak.
- Downton Abbey (Focus Features) – $31M
- Ad Astra (Fox/Disney) – $19.1M
- Rambo: Last Blood (Millennium/Lionsgate) – $18.3M
- Hustlers (STX Entertainment) – $17M
- It: Chapter Two (Warner Brothers) – $15.4M
Is it time to take the kids back to the theater? Dreamworks hopes so, as it is unveiling its latest animated picture ‘Abominable’ next weekend. Had either Disney or Lionsgate had had the smarts to shift their older male-skewing ‘Ad Astra’ or ‘Rambo: Last Blood’, it probably would have done better next weekend.
The fireworks will come on the first weekend of October when ‘Joker’ opens. There isn’t anything else major set for that date, and the current crop are middle-of-the-road titles that will have faded by then. ‘Joker’ performed exceptionally at the Venice Film Festival, and Warner Brothers is leaning into its awards hopes as a selling point. While there are plenty of people that are dying to see it, there are still quite a few that are perplexed by the whole thing. But they’re still talking about it.
And there is LITERALLY no competition. It’s already tracking for a massive $82-$90M opening, but I think it might top $100M. (Now that I’ve said that, watch it flop.)
Check back to see how things go.