An actually interesting box office weekend with a surprise winner? What is this, 2015?
By Tim Briody
September 22, 2019
Three new releases, all of which with a fighting chance at winning the weekend arrived in theaters, and all of which aiming at a different demographic. It wasn't as close a race as thought to be coming into the weekend, but nothing actually flopped.
Downton Abbey was a British television series that aired in the United States on PBS, which made it one of the most viewed shows in PBS history. You probably heard someone at work calling it Downtown Abbey. Running for six seasons and 52 episodes, the finale aired in the US in 2016, of course immediately causing speculation about a reunion or reboot or movie because nothing is immune to this stuff anymore. Plans for the latter were announced last year, with all the cast returning. Hey, there have been much worse adaptations.
With a solid $31 million, Downton Abbey quite easily wins the weekend. Turns out there was certainly an audience for a show that drew 9.6 million viewers for its finale. It's not that hard to figure out what happened here, popular show, aimed largely at a female audience (like what happened with Hustlers last weekend), and strong reviews (85% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) turned into a box office success. With Downtown Arby's Downton Abbey also extremely popular in its native country, that will be a boost to its overseas earnings, even though it's already topped the reported budget of $20 million.
And to think that Universal was considering making Downton Abbey an exclusive it its streaming service. Instead, they made it the biggest opening ever under the Focus Features label. While I think Downton Abbey is probably a one-weekend wonder, this is a rare better than expected result when there's a few questionable weekends coming up ahead.
Second and third place are also openers and they're so neck and neck it's going to come down to actuals in the end. Currently in second place with $19.2 million is Ad Astra, a sci-fi film starring Brad Pitt. Originally slated for January and then Memorial Day weekend before getting moved here, that was a vote of confidence in the product from Fox, which may have paid off in a way, if not necessarily financially. Ad Astra is 82% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes, but even those who didn't review it positively raved about Pitt's performance, and this film may unofficially be kicking off the awards season in theaters (and not the festival circuit).
Box office wise, Ad Astra carried a fairly sizable price tag ($80-100 million depending on your source), so it's got a significant amount of work to do to get back there domestically. Overseas earnings this weekend were okay, but they won't be strong enough to carry the day.
Third goes to Rambo: Last Blood, in which Sylvester Stallone brings back John Rambo, PTSD and all. With an estimated $19 million, that's just barely above Rambo's opening in January 2008, when Stallone tried to Rocky Balboa the character and it mostly didn't work, opening with $18.2 million and ending with $42.7 million.
I don't know why this film exists; maybe Stallone felt like it was time for a full on blood and guts ultraviolent film. Critics weren't buying, rating it 29% Fresh. Hey, at least you can't say any of its audience was taken away by Downton Abbey. Reportedly costing $50 million, that's not going to happen here and it's easily going to have the worst legs of the openers this weekend.
It: Chapter Two continues to fall, adding $17.2 million (down 56%) in its third weekend, giving it $179.1 million to date. It's looking like it could end with $100 million less than It, which would be cause for concern if this wasn't the end of the story (it is the end of the story, right?). Warner Bros. is playing with house money here, so it's just fine.
Hustlers slides 49% from opening weekend to $17 million, giving it $62.5 million in two weekends. The drop isn't that surprising, despite the positive reviews, the CinemaScore of B- indicated that audiences didn't quite get what they were expecting, and that may have influenced word of mouth. This is still a big win for STX, given that it only cost $20 million to make.
The Lion King is in its 10th weekend and still in sixth place, adding $2.5 million and a $537.5 million total. Good Boys also earns $2.5 million and has $77.3 million in six weekends. Angel Has Fallen earns $2.4 million in its fifth weekend and has $64.6 million, sending it past London Has Fallen. Faith based film Overcomer is ninth with $1.5 million and $31.5 million in five weekends, and Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw wraps things up with $1.4 million and $170.6 million in eight weekends.
The top 12 films earned $116.1 million, which is ahead of last year's $81.7 million when The House with a Clock in its Walls opened with $26.8 million
Next weekend sees just one wide release in Abominable, from DreamWorks Animation, plus the parade of Oscar bait continues as Judy, starring Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland, opens in limited release.