Downton Abbey: From Small to Big Screen

Three vastly different movies open this weekend: Downton Abbey, about an aristocratic British family and their servants; Rambo: The Last Chapter, Sylvetser Stallone’s return to the sage of the iconic action hero, and Ad Astra, an almost one-man sci-fi show, starring Brad Pitt as an astronaut with father-issues.

The online ticket service Fandango announced that advance sales for Downton Abbey have soared past its rivals, further clouding the forecast.

Thematically, the trio of films couldn’t be more different, except that each one of them relies heavily on older adults (over 40).

Rambo should skew heavily male, while Downton should be a big draw among females.

Downton Abbey picks up the story three years after creator Julian Fellowes’ ITV and PBS series ended in 2016.

It’s the saga of the high-born Crawley family in the year 1927 as King George V and Queen Mary prepare to visit their famous Yorkshire estate.

Focus Features is distributing the film in the U.S., with parent studio Universal handling overseas markets.

Internationally, Downton Abbey opened to a promising $11.7 million last weekend in its first 17 markets, including a first-place finish of $6.3 million in the U.K.

The series regulars returning for the movie include Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Robert James-Collier, Joanne Froggatt, Sophie McShera, Phyllis Logan and Jim Carter. Michael Engler directed from a script by Fellowes.

Lionsgate and Millennium’s Rambo: Last Blood is being billed as the final title in the 37-year-old franchise that, along with Rocky, turned Stallone, who is now 73, into a global action brand. This time out, Stallone’s character takes on a Mexican drug cartel in a deadly journey of vengeance.

Adrian Grunberg directed from a script by Matthew Cirulnick and Stallone.

The last film in the franchise, Rambo, debuted to $18.2 million domestically in 2008, not adjusted for inflation.

In addition to starring, Stallone directed and wrote the picture.

The story centers on Stallone’s Rambo crossing into Mexico and taking on a violent cartel when the daughter of one of his friends is kidnapped.

“Rambo: Last Blood” also stars Paz Vega, Sergio Peris-Mencheta and Yvette Monreal.

The four Rambo films have grossed a combined $728 million in worldwide box office, led by “Rambo: First Blood Part II” with $300 million. The first film was based on David Morrell’s 1972 novel “First Blood,” about a Vietnam War veteran and former U.S. Army Special Forces Soldier expert in weaponry, hand-to-hand combat and guerrilla warfare. Reviews for “Rambo: Last Blood” have generated a mediocre 34% score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Ad Astra boasts the best Rotten Tomatoes score of the three films with 82 percent, compared with 81 percent for Downton Abbey. Rambo’s score is currently 56 percent.

James Gray’s space thriller Ad Astra garnered strong reviews after premiering at the 2019 Venice Film Fest, despite delays in getting to the big screen.

Disney inherited Pitt’s astronaut picture, produced by New Regency, when taking over the Fox studio.  Ad Astra’s release was delayed several times even before the Fox-Disney merger.

Overseas, Ad Astra opens in much of the world this weekend, with the exception of Italy, Brazil, Russia and some smaller markets.

Directed by Gray from a script he wrote with Ethan Gross, Ad Astra follows Roy McBride (Pitt) on a mission across an unforgiving solar system to uncover the truth about his missing father and his doomed expedition that now, 30 years later, threatens the universe.

Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland co-star.