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In an unusual box office showdown, an aristocratic British family and their loyal servants will duke it out this weekend with an iconic action hero — John Rambo — and an astronaut played by Brad Pitt.
The spoils are expected to go to either Downton Abbey, the big-screen continuation of the popular British TV show, or Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo: Last Blood, but the race could be close. Prerelease tracking suggests the two films will open in the $18 million-$22 million range.
But don’t rule out filmmaker James Gray’s space thriller Ad Astra, starring Pitt, which may open in the mid-teen millions range. The film garnered strong reviews after premiering at the Venice International Film Festival, despite a delay in getting to the big screen. Holdovers It: Chapter Two and Hustlers could also pose tough competition.
On Wednesday, online ticket service Fandango announced that advance sales for Downton Abbey have soared past its rivals, further clouding the forecast.
And while the trio of new films couldn’t be more different in scope, they will each rely heavily on older adults (think upward of age 40, as well as consumers 55 and older). Rambo should skew heavily male, while Downton Abbey should be a big draw among females.
Downton Abbey opens three years after creator Julian Fellowes’ ITV and PBS series ended in 2016 and picks up 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).
Internationally, Downton Abbey bowed to a promising $11.7 million last weekend in its first 17 markets, including a first-place finish of $6.3 million in the U.K. 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.
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, who is 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. Paz Vega co-stars.
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 the pic.
Ad Astra narrowly boasts the best Rotten Tomatoes score of the three films with 82 percent, compared to 81 percent for Downton Abbey. Rambo‘s score is currently 56 percent.
Disney inherited Pitt’s astronaut pic, 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. Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland co-star.
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