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411 Box Office Report: Downton Abbey Beats Rambo: Last Blood and Ad Astra For #1

September 22, 2019 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Downton Abbey Rambo Ad Astra

It was a domestic weekend at the box office, as Downton Abbey blew past expectations to clip Rambo: Last Blood and Ad Astra for the top spot. The film follow-up to the hit TV series brought in a stellar $31 million, blasting the pre-weekend predictions of $20 million or so. That’s a fantastic start for a film that, while tied to an incredibly popular TV series, doesn’t exactly scream “blockbuster” status. The start is well above those of other TV adaptations in recent years like Baywatch ($18.5 million), Entourage ($10.3 million) and on par with the first Equalizer movie ($34.1 million) despite not having Denzel Washington’s star power.

The Downton Abbey film was always going to be successful, to be sure. The series is one of the most lauded in recent memory and fan appreciation for it is still high. But again, it’s a period drama and not a popcorn film, and was released by Universal Pictures’ specialty label Focus Features. It marks Focus’ best start ever, beating Insidious Chapter 3’s $22.7 million opening in 2015. The film found its sweet spot by bringing in the Downton fans in older women, who are not the most common of movie-going crowds. The positive critical buzz (85% on Rotten Tomatoes) helped, while the word of mouth was predictably quite good at an A CinemaScore.

What does this mean for the film’s final numbers? There’s some question, considering how much the film was targeted to fans of the series, if the film will play more like period dramas do (i.e. longer box office legs) or fade more quickly like fan-heavy genre films do. Either way, it’s hard to see this doing much less than $80 million to $90 million, and it could go higher. The film is also soaring overseas, where it’s racked up $30.8 million so far for a worldwide total of $61.8 million. This will be quite the hit for Focus based on its $20 million reported budget plus marketing costs.

Brad Pitt’s Ad Astra had somewhat less thrilling news, opening at #2 with $19.2 million. That’s not the worst situation, mind; the film was always expected to start in the high teens to $20 million range. The sci-fi space adventure flew a bit under the radar throughout the summer with its September release date, but it’s a solid opening for an expensive film that will be looking to score big money overseas. The budget was reportedly in the $100 million range and while it has a lot of ground to make up, it could still get there.

Making that breakeven point will require good legs, which the positive reviews (83% on RT) should help. The word of mouth isn’t the best though; this one was polarizing with a B- CinemaScore. That’s worse than Passengers (B), The Martian (A) and Gravity (A-). That may make it a bit of a struggle for the film to find the audience it needs in successive weeks, although on the plus side there isn’t a ton of competition until Joker arrives in two weeks.

Ad Astra’s biggest problem was probably marketing, with an ad campaign that didn’t do much to inspire and didn’t lay out the plot particularly well. It’s off to an okay start overseas with $26 million for a $45.2 million worldwide start. Domestically the film is probably looking at $70 million or so by the end of its run, and whether it makes a profit will entirely depend on the overseas numbers picking up.

Rambo: Last Blood opened similarly to Ad Astra at $19 million, although that’s better news for Lionsgate than it is for Fox. The start was slightly up from the $18.2 million for 2008’s Rambo and lands right where most were predicting it would do. Last Blood was perfect counterprogramming for Downton Abbey catering to a completely different crowd and delivering more or less what they were looking for. The film weathered pretty negative reviews (29% on RT) with the help of some decent word of mouth. The B CinemaScore isn’t on the level of the last film’s A, but it’s pretty close to the B+ for Rambo III all the way back in 1988.

Rambo’s biggest benefit is that it was a much cheaper film than Ad Astra, with a $50 million budget. That will be much easier to overcome, though it must be said that this is not a franchise with a history of lengthy box office runs. 2008’s Rambo had a multiple of just 2.34 and while the other films look better in direct comparison, they all come from an era when movies had much longer legs in theaters. A 4.12 for Rambo III sounds good, but hell even Crocodile Dundee II managed a 4.47 that year and the top film of the year, Rain Man, had a 24.69 multiple, which would be virtually impossible for any film today.

What all that boils down to is the fact that Last Blood is probably looking at around $50 million to $60 million by the end of its domestic box office run. This is a franchise that plays fairly well overseas, so it should be able to ultimately turn a profit once those markets start coming in.

It Chapter Two repped the first holdover of the weekend in the top ten, bringing in $17.3 million which is down 57% from last weekend. The second part of the Stephen King adaptation is doing well for itself, with $179.2 million domestically and $358.9 million worldwide against a $79 million budget. The film is no It in terms of box office performance but was never meant to be. It is looking on par for around $225 million to $235 million and will be a big money maker for Warner Bros.

The ensemble stripper drama Hustlers was down an expected 49% to $17 million. Hustlers is undeniably a breakout success, having brought in $62.6 million domestically and $72.4 million worldwide against a budget of just $20 million. The film, which is based on a real story, should close out at around $90 million in the US which will make it a nice profitable entry for STX.

The Lion King keeps on rolling, off a mere 30% in its tenth weekend with $2.6 million. The Disney live-action remake is up to an incredible $537.6 million domestically and $1.629 billion worldwide. It’s now the #11 film of all-time domestically and #7 worldwide, with Jurassic World’s $1.671 billion worldwide number within reach. It is still on par to close out domestically with abour $545 million. The budget was $250 million.

Good Boys has been holding on well and dropped a solid 41% in its sixth weekend, scoring $2.5 million. The teen comedy has grossed a total of $77.3 million domestically and $98.7 million worldwide against its $20 million budget plus marketing. Good Boys is clearly a hit and should end its US stint with around $83 million.

Gerard Butler’s Angel Has Fallen nailed down another $2.4 million in its fifth weekend, down 47. That gives the film a very solid $64.7 million domestically to date and $118.3 million worldwide. The action film has topped London Has Fallen’s final domestic gross of $62.5 million and is ready to profit for Lionsgate against a $40 million budget. It should finish at $70 million to $72 million domestically.

Overcomer was down 45% in its fifth weekend. The faith-based drama from Affirm and Sony brought in $1.5 million, taking its total to $31.6 million. Right now it looks likely to end its run around $38 million which will make it profitable against a $5 million budget plus moderate marketing.

Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw had one last weekend in the top 10, down 48% in its eighth weekend to $1.5 million. The Dwayne Johnson/Jason Statham spinoff has now brought in $170.6 million domestically and $750.1 million worldwide, a major profit against its $200 million budget. It’s domestic run should close out around $175 million or so.

Abominable will likely lead the box office next weekend, as the animated film targets a $20 million to $25 million start. That’s the only new wide release, giving the September holdovers one last weekend to score some dough before Joker hits on the 4th.

BOX OFFICE TOP TEN (Three-Day Domestic Numbers)
1. Downton Abbey – $31 million ($31 million total)
2. Ad Astra – $19.2 million ($19.2 million total)
3. Rambo: Last Blood – $19 million ($19 million total)
4. It: Chapter 2 – $17.2 million ($179.2 million total)
5. Hustlers – $17 million ($62.6 million total)
6. The Lion King – $2.6 million ($537.6 million total)
7. Good Boys – $2.5 million ($77.3 million total)
8. Angel Has Fallen – $2.4 million ($64.7 million total)
9. Overcomer – $1.5 million ($31.6 million total)
10. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw – $1.5 million ($170.6 million total)