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Lord Grantham and the rest of the Crawley family are holding court over the competition at the North American box office in a major way.
Downton Abbey, the big-screen continuation of the hit British series, grossed $13.8 million Friday from 3,079 theaters, including $2.1 million in Thursday previews, for a projected domestic debut of $31 million. This is well ahead of expectations and one of the best openings in recent years for a TV-to-movie adaptation outside of the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises.
It’s also the biggest opening ever for specialty distributor Focus Features. Downton‘s performance is thanks to females (74 percent) and older moviegoers — half of Friday ticket buyers were 45 and over, including 32 percent over 55, according to PostTrak.
The adult-skewing drama will easily beat the other two new offerings, Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo: Last Blood and James Gray’s Ad Astra, starring Brad Pitt. Heading into the weekend, the race was expected to be close between Downton Abbey and Rambo.
In another surprise twist, Ad Astra — buoyed by a high-profile debut at the Venice Film Festival and its A-list star — is in a close race with Rambo. The space thriller grossed $7.16 million Friday from 3,460 theaters, including $1.5 million in Thursday previews, for an estimated $19 million weekend.
Rambo is likewise on course for an $18 million-$19 million weekend after earning $7.17 million Friday from 3,618 locations.
Downtown Abbey was graced with an A CinemaScore, followed by a B for Rambo and a B- for Ad Astra.
Downton Abbey opens more than three years after creator Julian Fellowes’ ITV and PBS series ended in 2016 and continues the saga of the high-born Crawley family in the year 1927 as King George V and Queen Mary prepare to visit their famous Yorkshire estate. Focus Features is distributing the film in the U.S., with parent studio Universal handling overseas duties (series producer Carnival Films is owned by NBCUniversal).
Disney inherited Ad Astra, produced by New Regency, when taking over the 20th Century Fox film empire. (Ad Astra‘s release was delayed several times even before the Fox-Disney merger.) Overseas, the movie opens in much of the world this weekend, with the exception of Italy, Brazil, Russia and a handful of smaller markets.
Directed by Gray from a script he wrote with Ethan Gross, Ad Astra follows Roy McBride (Pitt) on a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.
Lionsgate and Millennium’s Rambo: Last Blood is being billed as the final title in the 37-year-old franchise that, along with Rocky, turned Stallone, now 73, into a global action brand. This time out, the titular character takes on a Mexican drug cartel in a deadly journey of vengeance. Adrian Grunberg directed from a script by Matthew Cirulnick and Stallone.
The last film in the franchise, Rambo, debuted to $18.2 million domestically in 2008, not adjusted for inflation. In addition to starring, Stallone directed and wrote that pic.
Hustlers and It: Chapter Two will round out the top five.
Sept. 21, 8 a.m. Updated with Friday grosses.
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