‘Downton Abbey’ and ‘Rambo’ look to scare off ‘It Chapter Two’ at the box office

"Rambo: Last Blood"
Sylvester Stallone in “Rambo: Last Blood.”
(Yana Blajeva / Lionsgate)

It’s up to an aged John Rambo and the Dowager Countess of Grantham to loosen Pennywise’s grip on the box office this weekend and continue a strong start for the fall box office season after a lackluster summer.

Lionsgate and Millennium Films’ “Rambo: Last Blood” and Focus Features’ film adaptation of “Downton Abbey” are each expected to open with around $20 million in ticket sales this weekend in the U.S. and Canada, according to people who’ve read pre-release audience surveys. Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox’s Brad Pitt space drama “Ad Astra” will probably debut with roughly $17 million.

Both “Rambo” and “Downton Abbey” have a decent chance of unseating “It Chapter Two” as the top film in the U.S. and Canada. Warner Bros. and New Line Cinema’s $80-million horror sequel has ruled the charts for two weekends in a row, and has collected $155 million in North America so far. “It Chapter Two” held strong with $39 million last weekend, holding off the better-than-expected debut of STX’s Jennifer Lopez movie “Hustlers.”


Rambo returns

“Last Blood” will again test the endurance of the long-running Sylvester Stallone action franchise, which began with 1982’s “First Blood,” released by Orion Films. The new movie comes more than a decade after Lionsgate and Avi Lerner’s Millennium rebooted the Reagan-era property with 2008’s poorly reviewed “Rambo,” which launched with $18 million domestically and ended up with $113 million worldwide.

The studios behind “Last Blood” are anticipating a launch of $17 million to $20 million domestically for the new picture, though some box office analysts say it could overperform. A strong debut would mark another win for Millennium and Lionsgate, which most recently released another action sequel, “Angel Has Fallen.” Though the studios’ “Hellboy” reboot failed earlier this year, the success of “Angel Has Fallen,” starring Gerard Butler, proved that mid-budget R-rated action films can still draw their target male audience to the multiplex.

Stallone’s star power has proved durable in recent years with movies including the “Rocky” sequel “Creed” and the “Expendables” series. The 73-year-old actor’s most recent release, MGM’s “Creed II,” grossed $214 million globally.

Crawley v. Pitt

“Downton Abbey,” the big-screen revival of the beloved British TV drama, is expected to compete with both “Rambo” and “Ad Astra” for grown-up audiences at the crowded multiplex. Analysts expect the film version to have strong appeal with fans of the popular series, which ran on PBS in the U.S. for six seasons.

The film began its overseas rollout last week, taking in $11.7 million in 17 countries, including a No. 1 opening in the United Kingdom, where it grossed $6.3 million. The film version of “Downton Abbey” was written by series creator Julian Fellowes and directed by Michael Engler, who helmed several “Downton Abbey” episodes.

“Ad Astra” is the latest release from 20th Century Fox, which was acquired by Walt Disney Co. in March. The James Gray-directed film, in which an astronaut (Pitt) undertakes a dangerous mission to uncover the truth about his missing father, is coming off mostly positive reviews from its unveiling at the Venice Film Festival in August.