‘Downton Abbey’ opening weekend rules the box office

LOS ANGELES — A group of British aristocrats beat out Brad Pitt as an astronaut and John Rambo at the box office this weekend.

“Downton Abbey,” the film adaptation of the popular British period TV drama, won the weekend with an estimated $31 million opening in North America. “Downton Abbey,” which stars Hugh Bonneville and Maggie Smith, represents the highest-grossing opening for the NBCUniversal owned Focus Features. It was also a bit of a surprise since the film exceeded industry expectations. The film was projected to make closer to $20 million.

The film was buoyed by a strong fan base and even stronger reviews. “Downton Abbey” has an 85% score on review site Rotten Tomatoes.

20th Century Fox’s “Ad Astra” took second place at the box office this weekend. The science fiction film starring Brad Pitt nabbed an estimated $19.2 million. The film was projected to make $15 million to $20 million this weekend. The opening is a solid one for the Disney-owned Fox, which was desperately in need of a hit. That said, the film has a ways to go in order to recoup its hefty $80 million budget. “Ad Astra” has made $45 million worldwide.

And in third place was the latest film in the “Rambo” franchise, “Rambo: Last Blood.” The film, which stars Sylvester Stallone as the iconic action hero, brought in an estimated $19 million this weekend. The film is the fifth installment in the series, which started with 1982’s “First Blood.”

This weekend may not have had any record openings, but the US box office had strong performances from many different films by having something for everyone at the ticket booth. Totals were up 30% over the comparable weekend last year.

“This weekend the wealth was shared amongst a trio of wildly different, uniquely appealing movies that all grabbed their respective piece of the box-office pie,” Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore, told CNN Business.

The domestic box office is still down roughly 5% from last year, but could gain some ground in the coming weeks. Warner Bros.’ “Joker,” a gritty take on the Batman villain starring Joaquin Phoenix, could break box office records when it opens in two weeks.

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