‘Downton Abbey’ holds off competition from Hollywood bigwigs

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‘Downton Abbey’ holds off competition from Hollywood bigwigs

Raise your tea cups! The big-screen encore of “Downton Abbey” handily (but very politely) thumped both Brad Pitt’s “Ad Astra” and Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo: Last Blood” in theaters over the weekend in one of the more unlikely box-office upsets.

“Downton Abbey” debuted with $31 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates Sunday, royally trumping the $19.2 million opening for “Ad Astra” and the $19 million debut for “Rambo: Last Blood.” Neither the draw of Pitt in space nor a bandanna-wearing Stallone could match the appeal a tea party with old friends.

While the stout performance of “Downton Abbey” had come to be expected in the lead-up to release, it was still striking. The debut marked the best first weekend ever for Focus Features in its 17-year history. It ranks as the best opening for any specialty studio in a decade.

Coming four years since the series finale, “Downton Abbey” returns with most of the original cast and was penned by its creator, Julian Fellowes. To drum up excitement, Focus hosted dress-ups and “Downton” parties. While the film drew a healthy amount of younger moviegoers (31 percent under 35), its audience was predictably largely female (74 percent) and older (32 percent over 55) - a demographic seldom catered to.

Critics greeted the film warmly (85 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), but audiences were even more enthusiastic, giving it an A CinemaScore. Having already played for a week in some international territories, “Downton Abbey” has already brought in $61.8 million worldwide.

Reviews were similarly strong for James Grey’s “Ad Astra,” which premiered earlier in the month at the Venice Film Festival. It sits at 83 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and comes on the heels of plaudits for Pitt in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time ... In Hollywood” (which has grossed $344.6 million worldwide thus far).

The production cost around $100 million for 20th Century Fox, which was earlier this year acquired by the Walt Disney Co.

Lionsgate’s “Rambo: Last Blood” is the fifth “Rambo” movie going back to the 1982 original, “First Blood.” Fashioned as the franchise’s final installment (Stallone is now 73 years old), it did about the same as the previous 2008 reboot, which opened with $18 million before ultimately grossing $113 million worldwide. “Last Blood” got especially terrible reviews, though; it’s only 31 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes.

AP

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