BO Report: Older audiences see ‘Downton Abbey’ continue its reign

‘Downton Abbey’. 

Downton Abbey continues its box office domination, having now taken over $7 million in two weeks and beating out new releases Ad Astra, Good Boys and Rambo: Last Blood. 

The Universal title eased by just 30 per cent in its second run, bringing in $2.6 million from 452 screens.

The period drama’s success has also been reflected overseas, enjoying a buoyant North American opening weekend – a record for Focus Features with US$31 million across 3,079 theatres. Downton also opened in 15 other markets with global box office takings sitting royally at US$61.8 million.

Cinema Nova GM Kristian Connelly says Downton Abbey’s outstanding cinema performance across both weekends amplified the importance of content for older audiences.

“The traditionally slow to act senior set, older demographic audience needs ample time to get around to see films like Downton Abbey and The Farewell which is already in release,” he said.

He added that the same pattern was clear for Australian films including The Nightingale, Palm Beach and The Australian Dream.

Madman’s The Australian Dream, which has been screening over five weeks, surpassed the $1 million mark over the weekend – 10 per cent of which came from Nova.

Overall the top 20 titles brought in just under $12 million, up 12 per cent on last week, according to the Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA).

New Regency and 20th Century Fox’s Brad Pitt-starring space opera vehicle Ad Astra, from director James Gray, landed in second place with an opening of $1.9 million from 354 screens.

Warner Bros’ It: Chapter 2 brought in $1.3 million on its third orbit, easing by 56 per cent. Overall the Andrés Muschietti-directed clown horror has brought in an impressive $13.4 million.

Universal’s R-rated teen comedy, Good Boys debuted in fourth place, snaring $1.2 million from 227 screens, beating out the latest incarnation of the Rambo franchise, Rambo: Last Blood which commandeered $976,901 from 263 screens.

“The recent success of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Downton Abbey and Good Boys in the last few weeks has reinforced that there is a lot of audience demand for fresh content, or content that is not part of a long standing cinematic franchise,” Connelly notes.

The exhibitors forecasts that the Downton result provides a hopeful indication that producers such as Every Cloud, the makers of the impending Miss Fisher’s series spin-off film, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears, would find a strong, natural audience.

The Angry Birds sequel eased by 37 per cent in its second week for Sony, taking $920,750 and bringing its overall takings to $2.7 million. However, it still beat out fellow family film, Universal’s Abominable which opened on $916,541.

Paramount’s Queensland filmed live-action feature, Dora and the Lost City of Gold opened in the eighth slot taking $784,073 over the weekend across 264 screens. The Dora franchise represents one of Nickelodeon Junior’s longest-running animated series, and secured a coup for Screen Queensland, it’s facilities and the state employing over 400 local cast and crew and injected around $43 million into Queensland’s economy.

Now in its sixth week, Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon A Time In Hollywood has cracked the $20 million mark. The Forum Films-distributed Punjabi comedy Nikka Zaildar 3 opened on the weekend at number ten garnering an impressive $4,783 screen average across a modest 33 location release.

The week ahead will see the release of Rachel Griffiths’ much-anticipated directorial debut Ride Like a Girl, the Michelle Payne biopic distributed by Transmission Films, in addition to writer-director Rodd Rathjen’s Cambodian set drama, Buoyancy, distributed by Umbrella Entertainment.

Whilst some Australian independent releases have suffered some recent disappointments, Connolly said that he imagined that there is a bit of reflection going on as what brings an audience to see an Australian film.

“You need to look at the success of a film like Palm Beach which a clear audience in mind that reflects that demographic taste. Some smaller, more niche films have been found to be a little less accessible by older audiences by the very virtue of having very limited releases in outer suburban areas and sometimes they don’t appeal on a taste level.”

“But Australian films can’t simply be made for audiences aged 50 or more but it is a very receptive demographic for Australian films.

Connolly believes that Ride like a Girl, has “tremendous opportunity to capture the audience zeitgeist,” as on the surface appears very accessible by virtue of a PG rating, has strong viewer anticipation and exceptional word-of-mouth from early preview screenings.