Highly anticipated Downton Abbey: A New Era made $1.050 million in Thursday previews that began at 7 pm at more than 3,300 theaters. It is Focus Features’ widest ever US release and one that comes with a weight of responsibility as tea film to finally catapult older demos back into theaters. Focus Features distribution chief Lisa Bunnell recently promised cinema owners it would. “We have our own superheroes,” she said at CinemaCon.
Based on the smash series created by Julian Fellowes, it’s grossed over $30 million internationally. It premiered in the UK and Ireland April 29, launching into the top spot across 746 locations (second-widest release after No Time To Die). It’s certified Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes with a 98% Audience score and 83% Critics score. Tracking to a mid-to-low teens opening.
This is the second cinematic outing of the phenomenon that aired for six seasons Stateside on PBS (2011-2020) and reunites the full cast. Some set off on a grand journey to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the Dowager Countess’ newly inherited villa, others remain at the Yorkshire estate and help shoot a film.
The first Downton Abbey movie made $97 million in pre-pandemic 2019.
Fellowes wrote the screenplay for Downton Abbey: A New Era and produced with Gareth Neame and Liz Trubridge. Simon Curtis directed.
Getting the word out: Marketing crossed traditional, digital and social media, podcasting and female-centric mobile gaming, with an active screening schedule (including one for the crew of the International Space Station) and a spate of Downton-inspired high teas. Focus was the first major studio to hold a premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in NYC on May 15.
-A multi-platform campaign across NBCU properties included a weeklong TodayShow takeover, a spot in the Kentucky Derby, and airing of Downton Abbey on NBC featuring behind the scenes content from the upcoming film.
-A Downton Abbey TikTok – more than 40M views to date. The trailer alone reached over 25M views. The account grew over 50% organically since launch.
-Downton Abbey: The Official Podcast served up Crawley family nostalgia and bit of the film.
-Partnership with Meta – which has the largest percentage of Downton fan groups and active engagement – for Fireside Chats with Julian Fellowes with over 5M views to date. Focus said the highest ticketing driver of the campaign was the online video recap of the first film.
-Fan-favorite Mr. Carson (Jim Carter) on Amazon Alexa: when engaged, he guides fans on an exclusive audio tour of Downton Abbey, tests their Crawley trivia and helps them purchase movie tickets.
-Words With Friends: the mobile game reaches an engaged female audience that spends 10-plus hours a week playing. Downton Abbey “reskinned” the app featuring the Dowager Countess and other favorites, including an opening day “Word of the Day” takeover and a social media blitz.
-Targeting holidays like Mother’s Day, the fanbase was engaged in more than 180 Downton-themed activations nationwide amplified by partnerships with local media partners.
-Focus started showing the film early, hitting 40 markets and over 100 screens in conjunction with the film’s UK launch through US opening.
-The Langham Hotel in Pasadena relaunched its Downton-themed afternoon High Tea for the month of May. Guests encouraged to dress in their finest period attracts. Echoes events elsewhere, like Marcus Theaters offering afternoon tea service, a hat judging contest and collectible Downton Abbey teaspoons at select locations May 21.
Downton Abbey: A New Era is a Carnival Films production, with Focus and Universal Pictures International distributing. Carnival is part of the Universal Studio Group.
Returning cast and new additions include Hugh Bonneville, Laura Carmichael, Jim Carter, Raquel Cassidy, Brendan Coyle, Michelle Dockery, Kevin Doyle, Joanne Froggatt, Michael Fox, Harry Hadden-Paton, Robert James-Collier, Allen Leech, Phyllis Logan, Elizabeth McGovern, Sophie McShera, Tuppence Middleton, Lesley Nicol, Douglas Reith, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, Penelope Wilton, Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye, Dominic West and Jonathan Zaccaï.