When it comes to evaluating the financial performance of top movies, it isn’t about what a film grosses at the box office. The true tale is told when production budgets, P&A, talent participations and other costs collide with box office grosses and ancillary revenues from VOD to DVD and TV. To get close to that mysterious end of the equation, Deadline is repeating our Most Valuable Blockbuster tournament for 2019, using data culled by seasoned and trusted sources.
You would think that these days the best place for a feature movie spun off from a popular TV series would be on a streaming service. But when it comes to Downton Abbey‘s older-skewing demographic of 55 and over, they’re more the art house demo. Downton Abbey producer Gareth Neame and creator Julian Fellowes began conceiving a movie shortly after the series wrapped in 2015; there was more string to unravel about the upper-crust Crawley family, and on a bigger canvas. Most of the series original cast returned including Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Hugh Bonneville (except for rising star Lily James, who the creators couldn’t factor in plot-wise). Michael Engler, one of Downton‘s episodic directors, ultimately helmed, and Neame’s production company Carnival Films, a division of NBCUniversal International Studios, would see the movie distributed through sister specialty feature division Focus Features. After a summer box office that saw several counter-programming titles squashed by Disney event films, Downton Abbey was one of the first adult features to work in early fall, as Focus sold the movie like an event to its older-skewing demo with trailers on big pics like Mary Poppins Returns, and via 11 global promo partners including Saks Fifth Avenue and Viking cruises. While that demo typically makes it way to the cinema slowly, they showed up in bulk, shelling out $31M on opening weekend at the domestic box office to give Focus its first No. 1 opening at since George Clooney’s The American over Labor Day 2010.
THE BOX SCORE
Here are the costs and revenues as our experts see them:
THE BOTTOM LINE
A modest budget at $20M before a $55M global P&A generated a near $200M worldwide gross. Participations, estimated at $15M, go largely to Neame, Fellowes and a shared pool for the cast. The end result was $88M in net profit after $217M in revenues (across global theatrical rentals, digital and physical home entertainment, and worldwide TV) against $129M in costs. Fellowes has already announced he’s writing a sequel.