Box Office: DOWNTON ABBEY shows that PBS fans are more rabid than Brad Pitt and Rambo stans

Welcome to the Beat’s weekly Weekend Box Office Recap!

There was once a thought that TV shows were TV shows and movies were movies and never the twain shall meet, but Focus Features’ Downton Abbey proved otherwise this weekend, seeing a new opening weekend record for the studio with an estimated $31 million.

Continuing the story from the six seasons of the popular PBS series with many of the same actors and characters, Downton Abbey opened on Friday with a clear advantage against the other two movies, Brad Pitt‘s Ad Astra and Sylvester Stallone‘s Rambo: Last Bloodscoring $2.1 million in Thursday previews. Fans of the series by Oscar winner Julian Fellowes were clearly looking forward to the return of the Crawley family played by Dame Maggie SmithHugh BonnevilleMichelle Dockery, Allen LeechPenelope WiltonMatthew Goode and Laura Carmichael, as well as the downstairs help played by Jim CarsonTuppence Middleton. They were also joined by the likes of Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton as the staff of Downton Abbey prepared for the arrival of the King and Queen.

By midday Friday, it was obvious that Downton Abbey was going to win the weekend by far more than anyone (including myself) expected, as it scored $13.8 million, including those Thursday previews, nearly twice as much as the other two movies. It was definitely more frontloaded than the other two movies, too, showing a clear demand to see the movie early and avoid being spoiled about what happens, but the movie’s “A” CinemaScore shows that the fans were definitely happy with the results. Critics were fairly happy, too, as they gave it an 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, slightly better than Ad Astra.

It was a much tighter race between Fox’s space epic Ad Astra, directed by James Gray (The Lost City of Z), and the return of Stallone’s John Rambo in Rambo: Last Blood, and even the Sunday estimates might make it too close to call. Although Ad Astra made $1.5 million in Thursday previews to Rambo‘s $1.3 million, Rambo pulled slightly ahead on Friday by just $10,000, both in the $7.1 million range.

Although Ad Astra co-starred the likes of Tommy Lee JonesDonald SutherlandRuth Negga, Liv Tyler and more, Gray decided to focus his camera right up on Pitt’s face for most of the movie, as he dealt with his Daddy issues in space. Critics seemed to approve, but audiences gave the movie a “B-” CinemaScore, which means they probably wanted a little more substance. Rambo fans weren’t as picky, giving Stallone’s return to his First Blood character a “B.”

Even so, according to Sunday estimates, Ad Astra will still win second place with $19.2 million to $19 million — this could easily change with estimates Monday afternoon. At least Ad Astra made another $26 million overseas this weekend, but it’s a long way from being profitable, since it cost somewhere between $80 to 100 million compared to Rambo’s $50 million budget.

Not too many surprises in the rest of the top 10, although it was still a close race between last week’s record-setting Hustlers against the September horror hit It: Chapter Two. According to estimates, the New Line sequel which has grossed $179 million is also about $200,000 more than the Jennifer LopezConstance Wu crime-drama, which dropped less than 50% in its second weekend.

The leftover summer releases filled out the top 10 with Disney’s The Lion King edging its way ahead of Universal’s R-rated comedy Good Boys, both in the $2.5 million range. Lion King is enjoying its tenth week in the top 10 with its next family competition coming next week but not likely to knock it out of the top 10. Its currently the second-biggest movie of the year with $537.6 million domestic and $1.6 billion globally.

Amazon continues to try to expand the indie comedy Brittany Runs a Marathon, starring Jillian Bell, across the country, while being unable to get it into the top 10, as it moved into 12th place with a million and just $5.3 million grossed to date.

Quentin Tarantino‘s Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood became the filmmaker’s third movie to gross $200 million this weekend, as it continues to expand to other territories and capitalize on the popularity of its stars Leonardo Dicaprio, and yes, Brad Pitt, overseas, where Ad Astra can’t.

GKIDS opened the Studio TRIGGER animated feature Promare for two nights in 701 theaters where it grossed $723,000 theater, but its full weekend release into 31 theaters in select cities only added another $88,000 to that amount.

This Week’s Top 10: 

Rank Last Week Rank Movie Studio Weekend Gross % Change Total Gross
1 New Downton Abbey Focus Features $31 million N/A $31 million
2 New Ad Astra Fox $19.2 million N/A $19.2 million
3 New Rambo: Last Blood Lionsgate $19 million N/A $19 million
4 1 It: Chapter Two New Line/WB $17.2 million -57% $179.2 million
5 2 Hustlers STXfilms $17 million -49% $62.5 million
6 5 The Lion King Disney $2.6 million -30% $537.6 million
7 4 Good Boys Universal $2.5 million -41% $77.3 million
8 3 Angel Has Fallen Warner Bros. $2.4 million -47%
$64.7 million
9 7 Overcomer Sony/Affirm $1.5 million -45% $31.6 million
10 6 Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw Universal $1.5 million  -48% $170.6 million


At least his weekend’s top 10 continued the run of being up from the same weekend at the box office last year, which in this case was just the Jack Black family film The House with a Clock in Its Walls opening with $26.8 million to top a box office where the only other new release was Michael Moore‘s doc Fahrenheit 11/9.

Check back on Wednesday for my weekly Box Office Preview which will have just one movie, DreamWorks and Universal’s animated Abominable.