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In a surprise upset, Downton Abbey won the crowded weekend box office race with a better-than-expected $31 million from 3,079 theaters, lording over the final installment in Sylvester Stallone’s iconic Rambo action franchise and a new space thriller featuring one of the world’s biggest movie stars, Brad Pitt.
Pitt’s Ad Astra did manage to edge past Stallone’s Rambo: Last Blood with an estimated $19.2 million from 3,460 sites. Last Blood took in $19 million from 3,618 cinemas, the widest location count of the three new films. It’s possible the order could change when final weekend numbers are tallied Monday. (Heading into the frame, many were betting on Rambo to prevail.)
Downton Abbey is also serving up nice business overseas, having earned $30.8 million to date from its first 32 markets for an early global haul of $61.8 million against a modest $17 million production budget before marketing. The pic amassed $15 million in the U.K., where it first strutted into theaters last weekend.
In the U.S., Downton Abbey marks the biggest opening of all time for specialty distributor Focus Features, and is a testament to the buying power of older moviegoers. More than 50 percent of Friday’s moviegoers were 45 years old or older — including 32 percent over 55.
The continuation of the popular British show posted one of the best showings in recent years for a TV-to-movie adaptation outside of the Mission: Impossible and Star Trek franchises. By way of comparison, Entourage — which likewise featured the cast of the TV show — fell flat with a $10.3 million debut in 2015.
Downton Abbey opens more than three years after creator Julian Fellowes’ ITV and PBS series ended in 2016 and follows the saga of the high-born Crawley family and their servants in the year 1927 as King George V and Queen Mary prepare to visit. Focus is distributing the film in the U.S., with parent studio Universal handling overseas duties (series producer Carnival Films is owned by NBCUniversal).
Series regulars returning for the movie include Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Robert James-Collier, Joanne Froggatt, Sophie McShera, Phyllis Logan and Jim Carter. Michael Engler directed from a script by Fellowes.
Filmmaker James Grey’s Ad Astra — buoyed by a high-profile debut at the Venice International Film Festival and its A-list star — performed slightly ahead of expectations. Disney inherited the $80 million movie, which was 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.)
Ad Astra opened in much of the world over the weekend, grossing $26 million from 44 foreign markets for a global blast off of $45.2 million. It also did big business on Imax screens, which accounted for $6.6 million.
Directed by Gray from a script he wrote with Ethan Gross, Hollywood’s latest space pic follows Roy McBride (Pitt) on a mission across the solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.
Among the three new films, Ad Astra played the youngest, with 34 percent of ticket buyers ages 18 to 34. It also played the most evenly among the gender, even while skewing slightly male (54 percent).
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. The pic opened on par with the last installment, Rambo, which debuted domestically to $18.2 million in 2008, not adjusted for inflation.
Males made up the majority of those turning out to see the R-rated action flick (64 percent), while 77 percent were 25 and older, including 49 percent over 35.
In the latest outing, 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.
Downtown Abbey was graced with an A CinemaScore, followed by a B for Rambo and a B- for Ad Astra.
New Line’s hit It: Chapter Two narrowly topped Hustlers to place fourth in its third weekend with $17.2 million from 4,156 theaters for a domestic tally of $179.2 million. Internationally, the horror sequel zoomed past the $200 million mark after earning another $21.3 million from 78 markets. The pic ended Sunday with a foreign cume of $205.9 million, pushing its global cume to $385.1 million.
STXfilms’ Hustlers declined 49 percent in its second weekend with $17 million from 3,525 cinemas, for a domestic tally of $62.6 million and $72 million globally (it’s only opened in four foreign markets so far, earning $9.8 million to date).
Among other holdovers, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood also cleared the $200 million mark internationally to finish the weekend with a global total of $344.6 million.
At the U.S. specialty box office, the new documentary Where’s My Roy Cohn? reported a solid per-location average of $10,591 from four venues. Sony Pictures Classics is handling the film domestically.
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