South Africans Love ‘Downton Abbey’ as it Reigns Over ‘Ad Astra’ and ‘Rambo’ With $31 Million Debut

 In a box office win fit for a queen, Focus Features’ “Downton Abbey” ruled over the competition in North America… and played to packed audiences in South Africa.

Actors Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech and writer Julian Fellowes attend the world premiere of “Downton Abbey” in London, Britain September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Simon Dawson

The big-screen continuation of the popular British TV show beat expectations in the US with $31 million when it debuted in 3,079 theatres, setting a new opening weekend record for the studio.

“Downton Abbey” easily surpassed newcomers “Ad Astra” and “Rambo: Last Blood,” which are in a close race for second place.

Outside of the US – in South Africa and abroad – the royal period drama has collected $41 million to date for a worldwide tally of $61.8 million.

The film is on a limited release in South Africa, with some grumbling about how far they have to travel to see it.

Gauteng publicist Georg Knoke, who watched the film on Friday night, says: “Book your seats! A MUST SEE!” Knoke says Hyde Park was fully booked.

“It’s a real treat and movie highlight of 2019!” he says.

FILE PHOTO: Highclere Castle, the filming location for Downton Abbey, is seen in Hampshire, Britain May 22, 2019. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

Series creator Julian Fellowes wrote “Downton Abbey,” while Michael Engler directed. Much of the cast from the TV show — including Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery and Maggie Smith — returned for the film adaptation.

Moviegoers, consisting mainly of females over 35, awarded the film with an A CinemaScore — the highest grade among this weekend’s new offerings. For comparison, “Ad Astra” landed a B- and “Rambo: Last Blood” secured a B.

As for “Downton Abbey,” 74% of ticket buyers were female and 60% were over the age of 35.

“Audiences were clearly ready to come back to Downton and visit the Crawleys and all the familiar faces upstairs and downstairs,” said Lisa Bunnell, Focus Features president of distribution. “At its core, it’s a story about family and audiences, both original fans and newcomers, are uplifted by that laughter and joy of the film.”

The feedback from South African viewers so far has been: “I looooooved the movie”, It was fab fab fab!”, “Loved every frame 💜” and “Was heeeerlik heerlik!”

(Reporting by Reuters and Jenni Baxter/SAPeople)