Transferring a story that worked in one medium to another is always a risky business. For every Buffy The Vampire Slayer success there's a Clueless collapse when making a film into a TV series. The same is true for TV series trying to hop to the big screen — for every Muppet Movie-level classic, there's a Flintstones-level disaster. That's the reality the Downton Abbey movie was facing heading into theaters after a successful run on ITV and PBS. But there's royally good news, as these Downton Abbey ratings show the Crawleys have raised their aristocratic status to big-screen success.
The Downton Abbey success story has been a pleasant surprise ever since the show debuted in the U.K. on ITV back in 2010. It was initially a miniseries tracing the final days of the Edwardian era, dipping in and out of the timeline like a stone skimming across the water. But the show proved so popular in the U.K. it got a second season.
PBS, too, treated the original like a standalone miniseries. (They even re-edited it, so it was five 75-minute installments instead of seven one-hour episodes.) The show proved so popular in the U.S., it was given its full due on this side of the pond come Season 2 onward. And it wound up being called one of the most important shows the public broadcasting network had ever aired.
Now the film is also breaking all expectations. It currently stands at a whopping 81% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with 79 reviews in.
Jen Chaney of New York Magazine says it's the perfect time for the story to return.
Downton Abbey, the series, has only been gone for a little more than three years. But that's just enough time to make its return very welcome, and to make this feel like the right moment to usher it back into the zeitgeist again.
Hanh Nguyen of indieWire says the tone is what fans would expect from a film version.
It's a return to form, and its all-encompassing storyline plays much like a shinier, more magnificent Christmas special.
And Dave White of TheWrap compares it to the biggest film of 2019.
This is Julian Fellowes' Avengers; they can assemble over and over, and there will always be enough tea cakes go around.
Downton Abbey is arriving late in the states, as had been the TV series habit for the entirety of its run. (The show would premiere in September on ITV and then arrive in January of the next year on PBS.) Thankfully, American viewers only have to wait a week this time. But having already opened in the U.K. and elsewhere overseas, Downton Abbey's box office is already doing far better than predicted, with a nearly $12 million opening weekend. Moreover, pre-sales in the United States have been eyepopping. According to The Hollywood Reporter:
[T]he Downton Abbey movie sold more tickets than Once Upon a Time in Hollywood did in terms of first-day advance sales. Put another way, it outranks any 2019 drama... Fandango managing editor Erik Davis: 'The first-day sales are among the best we've seen for any movie this year.'
The Downton Abbey movie opens in the U.S. on Friday, Sept. 20, 2019.