Weekend Box Office Forecast (Friday Update): Downton Abbey: A New Era and Men Debut as Doctor Strange Sequel Looks for Third #1 Finish

Photo Credits: Disney & Marvel Studios ("Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness"); Focus Features ("Downton Abbey: A New Era")

Friday Update: Universal and Focus report that Downton Abbey: A New Era earned $1.05 million from Thursday’s domestic previews beginning at 7pm in 3,300 theaters. That does not include earnings from Wednesday’s Early Access screenings, which the studio has not detailed yet.

Per the usual comparison rounds, that’s similar to the $1.1 million earned by Death on the Nile back in February. Its figure included both Wednesday PLF screenings and traditional Thursday previews, but Downton is expected to be more front-loaded. Nile opened to a $12.9 million weekend with the Super Bowl in play.

Pre-pandemic, the first Downton Abbey film registered $2.1 million from Thursday previews and an additional $2.2 million from sneak showings one week beforehand. It went on to reach $31.0 million for its domestic opening weekend.

At this stage, with incomplete preview gross insights, weekend trajectories remain volatile.

Wednesday Report: After two frames dominated by Marvel Studios’ Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, the domestic box office gets an injection of counter-programmers from Downton Abbey: A New Era and Men this weekend.

Leading the charge among that duo of openers will be Focus Features’ distribution of the second big screen adaptation of the widely acclaimed television series. Key to Downton‘s success will be the senior female audience as this represents the biggest and best test yet during the pandemic era of that demographic’s readiness to return to cinemas.

The first Downton shattered expectations in September 2019 with a $31 million opening weekend on its way to a $96.9 million domestic haul, part of $192.2 million globally. Its audience was comprised primarily of women (74 percent) over the age of 35 (60 percent).

Notably, with Focus housed under the banner of Universal Pictures, it will be intriguing to follow any potential impact of imminent streaming expectation by consumers. The parent studio has regularly sent films opening below certain box office thresholds to Peacock after just 17 days since last year, a factor that might weigh on the Downton sequel’s short- and/or long-term performance.

Diminished returns would have always been expected for a sequel, and the nature of the pandemic to shift viewing habits among older audiences further underlines that scenario. While the recent Secrets of Dumbledore and The Lost City similarly aimed at an adult female audience, Downton‘s bread and butter arguably hinges more on the 45-50+ crowd than either of those titles.

Still, A New Era is encouragingly healthy in pre-sales for Early Access shows, Thursday previews, and Friday matinees. Metrics far exceed those of Death on the Nile across the board, and premium formats like Dolby and dine-in theaters are seeing robust sales.

Some front-loading is expected with a fervent fan base, but play through Memorial Day and early summer should be leggy after the initial opening show rush. Critics’ reviews, currently at 79 percent, are comparable to the first film’s 84 percent. Overseas returns have met expectations so far with nearly $30 million the bank.

Focus Features is debuting the sequel at 3,814 domestic theaters this weekend, a 24 percent increase from the prior entry’s 3,079 footprint almost three years ago. The studio expects an opening weekend in the low-to-mid teen millions.

Also debuting in wide release is A24’s latest from filmmaker Alex Garland (Ex Machina) as Men hits an estimated 2,500 locations (unconfirmed by the studio at the time of publishing). Tracking is comparable to recent films like X, while ahead of Firestarter with Garland’s dedicated following driving initial sales and social activity.

Starring Jessie Buckley and Rory Kinnear, Garland’s latest genre-bender boasts a positive 82 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Meanwhile, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is likely to repeat atop the box office for a third time after a sharp drop in its sophomore frame, barring an over-performance by Downton.

The MCU blockbuster has encountered some mixed reception from families and certain parts of the fan base, but it remains the marquee title kicking off summer before Top Gun: Maverick gets its crack at the Memorial Day box office next week.

Opening Weekend Ranges

Downton Abbey: A New Era
Opening Weekend Range: $17 — 22 million

Men
Opening Weekend Range: $4 — 6.5 million

Weekend Forecast & Location Count Projections

Current projections call for a 15 to 20 percent decline from last weekend’s $89.1 million top ten aggregate. 

Film Distributor 3-Day Weekend Forecast Projected Domestic Total through Sunday, May 22 Location Count Projection (as of Wednesday) % Change from Last Wknd
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness Disney & Marvel Studios $30,000,000 $341,200,000 ~4,200 -51%
Downton Abbey: A New Era Focus Features $20,000,000 $20,000,000 3,814 NEW
The Bad Guys Universal Pictures & DreamWorks Animation $6,200,000 $74,400,000 ~3,500 -12%
Men A24 $5,400,000 $5,400,000 ~2,500 NEW
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 Paramount Pictures $4,100,000 $181,100,000 ~2,900 -12%
Everything Everywhere All at Once A24 $2,600,000 $51,800,000 ~1,600 -22%
Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore Warner Bros. Pictures $1,700,000 $92,800,000 ~1,900 -33%
Firestarter Universal Pictures $1,600,000 $6,500,000 ~3,412 -58%
The Lost City Paramount Pictures $1,300,000 $99,100,000 ~1,400 -23%
The Northman Focus Features $1,000,000 $33,000,000 ~1,300 -43%

*All forecasts are subject to revision before the first confirmation of Thursday previews or Friday estimates from studios or official sources.

Theater counts are updated as confirmed by studiosThe above table does not necessarily represent the top ten as some studios do not finalize weekend location counts and/or an intent to report box office returns prior to publishing.