SUNDAY AM UPDATE: Refresh for more analysis and chart Focus Features’ Downton Abbey: A New Era is coming in at 16M, and while some might snipe that it’s lower than the first one’s robust $ 31M start, particularly against a production cost that’s double from the first at $ 40M, keep in mind this is a sequel to period drama franchise, not Marvel. For Focus, it’s their best opening during the pandemic, besting Northman‘s .3 12.3M start. By the way, New Era‘s opening is right where tracking spotted it earlier this week.
It stands to reason that grosses would wane, even in a healthy marketplace for older adults, given the type of established IP here. Rivals would say the first movie was capturing lightening in a bottle, arriving three years after the six season series ended. The sequel isn’t really selling a cliffhanger here which would create a stampede, ie the downstairs staff got poisoned and there’s no one around to cook the holiday goose. Nonetheless, greenlighting a sequel was in full order given how the 2019 movie ranked as the best domestic start ever for a Focus Features’ movie.
On the bright side, older audiences did come back this weekend for New Era; Even if it wasn’t at the admissions level of the first film, the share of over 45s and 55s should come as a sign of optimism. Uni is reporting 48% were over 55. Similar to the first, it’s leaning 73%. If New Era marked some people’s first time back to the cinema during Covid times, they’ll see everything is normal, and hopefully this will be a catalyst for more older women to attend; they having been reluctant during the pandemic.
Again, from an exhibitor’s point of view (especially arthouses), not a studio’s accounting department, A New Era reps more business in the wake of Focus Features’ The Northman and A24’s Everything Everywhere All at Once which is officially the studio’s top grossing movie stateside with $ 52M.
New Era will be on a 17-day exclusive theatrical window for Universal’s plan with movie theaters. The bright side is that it’s not theatrical day-and-date, nor is it going straight to streaming without a big studio marketing campaign like some other specialty cinema movies.
One thing you have to hand to Universal, despite Jeff Shell’s desires and previous experiments to crunch the window, is that in the end, they’re committed to theatrical and building a diverse slate. While that business mo might sound like a broken record, it’s true. Together, Universal and Focus are providing 30 movies to cinemas this year. And we talk diversity, it doesn’t just mean appealing to various demographics, but different types and scales of movies.
James Gray, who was here at Cannes with another Focus Features title this past week, his autobiographical Armageddon Time, which received rave reviews, spoke to us about his fear on how many studios are abandoning broad slates. Essentially, especially now as we come back to cinema during Covid, there’s the belief that only tentpole franchises and superhero movies work. If there’s no breadth of product, how do you create culturally impactful cinema going forward?
“The studios should be willing to lose money for a couple of years on art film divisions, and in the end they will be happier,” Gray told us. As the old movie business adage goes, let the upsides of the blockbusters pay for the riskier bets. Despite the $ 70M spend on Focus Features’ sublime The Northman (which was co-financed by New Regency), at the end of the day, the surplus from Jurassic World Dominion and the next Minions should help back up for any shortfalls.
SATURDAY AM UPDATE: Focus Features is still seeing Downton Abbey: A New Era at $ 18M over 3 days after a $ 7.38M Friday, which, if it maintains course, is a good opening for this period, older-skewing sequel. Again, all of this is for second place after Disney’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which is seeing $ 30M in weekend 3 off a $ 8.5M Friday. Many rivals were spotting aggressively north of $ 20M yesterday afternoon, and that no longer seems the case. Still, among debuts for older-skewing movies during the pandemic, Downton Abbey – A New Era bests that 3-day (over the Thanksgiving stretch) of last year House of Gucci ($ 14.4M).
Similar to the first, Downton Abbey: A New Era skewed female at 73%, with 48% over 55 (wow), 65% over 45 and 79% over 35. Bigger shares than the first movie, but alas, less gross. Exits are great at A CinemaScore and PostTrak of 93% and a 79% recommend. Diversity demos were 74% Caucasian, 10% Latino and Hispanic, 8% Black, and 8% Asian / other. East coast and Southeast were best regions with top cities being Dallas, Philly, DC, Atlanta and Salt Lake City. More on pic’s marketing can be found here.
EntTelligence says roughly saw 630K moviegoers Doctor Strange 2 on Friday, raising its patron count to 24M. Downton Abbey 2 clocked 640K, including preview shows. Meanwhile, the older-skewing audience got into the theater before 8PM to see the feature broken down as follows: 18% before 1PM, 27% between 1PM to 4PM, 47% between 4PM to 8PM, while 8% were after 8PM.
A24’s Men, booked at 2,212, made $ 1.4M on Friday for what is expected to be a projected $ 3.3M opening. On 578 theaters less than Green Knight’s The opening weekend, the pic is coming in lower than that summer A24 feature, which did $ 6.79M. Pic was 76% certified fresh, which is on the lower end of good scores on Rotten Tomatoes and par for an A24 genre movie, and divided audiences with a D + CinemaScore (that’s lower than Midsommar‘s C +).
PostTrak polled audiences weren’t that far from CinemaScore, lowballing it with a 52% positive and 30% recommend. Guys showed up at 58%, with 76% between 18-34 years old and diversity demos at 57% Caucasian, 21% Latino and Hispanic, 9% Black, and 13% Asian. Coasts saw the best business, where eight of the top locations came from; the other two being at Alamo Drafthouse in Austin.
Meanwhile, A24’s Everything Everywhere crossed $ 50M yesterday. It’s technically at $ 50.017M, and today will surpass Uncut Gems ($ 50.023M) to become A24’s highest-grossing movie stateside, as we told you yesterday.
Also opening this weekend on the arthouse side is D’Souza Media’s voter fraud documentary 2000 Mules which saw $ 300K yesterday at 415 sites. OK business in Midwest and South. Outlook is $ 720K.
All ticket sales are at $ 77M, -16% from last weekend, and 48% off from the same frame in 2019.
Saturday AM estimates:
1.) Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness (Dis) 4,534 theaters, Fri. $ 8.5M (-50%), 3-day 30M (-51%) / Total 340.5M/ Wk 3
2.) Downton Abbey: A New Era (Foc) 3,820 theaters, Fri $ 7.38M3 Day 18M/ Wk 1
3.) The Bad Guys (Uni) 3,705 (-83) Theaters, Fri $ 1.42M (-16%), 3-day 5.7M (-19%) / Total $ 73.9M/ Wk 5
4.)Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Par) 2,943 (-173) theaters, Fri $ 920K (-8%), 3-day $ 3.95M (-15%) / Total 181M/ Wk 7
5.) Men (A24) 2,212 theaters Fri $ 1.4M3-day $ 3.3M/ Wk 1
6.) Everything Everywhere All at Once (A24) 1,576 (-150) theaters, Fri $ 889K (-3%), 3-day $ 3.2M (-4%) / Total 52.3M/ Wk 9
7.) Fantastic Beasts… Dumbledore (WB), 1,923 (-655) theaters, Fri. $ 500K (-24%), 3-day $ 1.85M (-27%) / Total $ 93M/ Wk 6
8.) Firestarter (Uni) 3,413 theaters, Fri. 540K (-65%), 3-day $ 1.73M (-55%) / Total 6.79M/ Wk 2
9.) The Lost City (Par) 1,396 (-279) theaters Fri. 415K (-12%), 3-day $ 1.55M (-9%) / Total $ 99.3M/ Wk 9
10.) The Northman (Foc) 1,263 (-671) theaters, Fri 280K (-42%), 3-day 1M (-42%) / Total $ 33M/ Wk 5
FRIDAY MIDDAY UPDATE: Focus Features sequel Downton Abbey: A New Era is heading toward an 18M opening after a projected 8M Friday that includes $ 1M in Thursday night previews.
That will put the Simon Curtis directed title in second place for the weekend behind Disney’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness which will hold on the No. 1 crown with a projected $ 7.4M- $ 7.6M Friday, -56% on the low end, for a $ 26M- $ 28M industry estimated third weekend at 4,534 theaters. This will propel the Sam Raimi movie to 340.4M on the high end by Sunday.
There’s a lot of hope riding on Downton Abbey: A New Era that it will dynamite the 55+ crowd out of their homes, and finally get them into cinemas after staying safe during the pandemic. While the movie was never expected to open to the pre-pandemic levels of its 2019 predecessor, which notched the best opening ever for Focus with $ 31M (and ended its domestic run at $ 96.8M), realize that this is a sequel to a period movie, so declining ticket sales were evident even in a healthy environment. Marvel, Downton is not despite its upstairs-downstairs drama. Downton Abbey: A New Era is booked at 3,817 locations, easily Focus Features widest release ever. The pic’s previews at $ 1M are 52% off from chapter one. Rival industry estimates are bullish that the Michelle Dockery, Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, etc. period drama can polish off a $ 20M + start, however, let’s see what Saturday brings. Downton 2 remains a super hit for period films; realize there was a day when these types of films would end their domestic runs in the low $ 20M-range, ie the Merchant Ivory canon of Remains of the Day, Room With the View and Howards End.
The first Downton Abbey clocked 74% women with 32% over 55, and 50% over 45; demos we don’t often see on a top ranking pic at the box office.
In 3rd is Universal / DreamWorks Animation’s Bad Guys at 3,699 locations, with a fifth Friday of $ 1.3M-23%, and a 3-day of $ 5.4M-23% for a running total by Sunday of $ 73.7M.
Fourth goes to Paramount’s Sonic the Hedgehog 2 at 2,943 sites with a seventh Friday of $ 900K-14% and 3-day of $ 3.85M-17%, and total of Sunday of $ 180.9M. The sequel has already blown past the original’s $ 148.9M by 21%.
A24 is opening its reteam with Ex-Machina filmmaker Alex Garland, the horror movie Men, starring Jessie Buckley, which is also debuting over here in Cannes in Directors’ Fortnight. Pic is booked at 2,212 and is looking at a Friday between 1.4M- $ 1.5M and an opening around $ 3.5M for fifth place. Meanwhile, the NY-based arthouse studio, which has kept specialty alive with Everything Everywhere All at Once, will see that Daniels’ movie become its highest grossing ever stateside on Sunday with $ 50M- $ 52M.