'Downton Abbey' opens weakly as fans of a certain age stay home

Kelly Gilblom, Bloomberg News on

Published in Entertainment News

“Downton Abbey: A New Era” opened in second place domestically this weekend and with a much weaker debut than its 2019 predecessor, as a key demographic for the film, older women, proves to be one of the most difficult to persuade back into theaters.

The film, from Comcast Corp.’s Focus Features division, generated $16 million in domestic ticket sales, Comscore Inc. estimated on Sunday. That was below the $20 million forecast from Boxoffice Pro and in line with low- to mid-teen millions the studio had projected.

This movie, which picks up the story of the TV series and 2019 feature film, was the best test so far of whether older women would come back to cinemas. Almost 75% of the audience for the first “Downton Abbey” movie, which opened to $31 million, was female, while 60% was over 35 years old, Boxoffice Pro said. The recovery for theaters has mostly been led by younger men and women seeing superhero films.

Comcast undertook a major marketing push across its media outlets to get the word out. The promotions included advertising during the Kentucky Derby, an hour-long behind-the-scenes program on NBC and cast appearances on the “Today” show that included a re-creation of the dining room from the film. It also started a TikTok account for the movie, which has about 80,000 followers, to develop a younger fan base, according to the studio. The film opened in more than 3,800 theaters, the largest number ever for a release from Focus Features.


Some “Downton Abbey” fans may wait until the movie is available for home viewing, which could be in as few as 17 days, depending on ticket demand. Online availability has hurt the box office performance of movies recently. In 2021, Warner Bros. films that appeared on HBO Max the same day they premiered in theaters generated ticket sales that were about 8% lower than if they’d been exclusives in theaters, according to modeling by Bruce Nash, founder of the movie data site the Numbers.

“Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” the latest Marvel installment from Walt Disney Co., was on top of the box office for the third straight week. It sold $31.6 million in domestic tickets over the weekend, Comscore estimated. It will likely be dethroned by the Paramount Global movie “Top Gun: Maverick,” which debuts over the Memorial Day holiday weekend after numerous COVID-related delays.

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