LIFE / CULTURE
‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’ not expected to perform well in China
Published: May 19, 2022 07:43 PM
<em>Promotional</em> material of Downton Abbey: A New Era <em>Photo: S<em>ina</em> <em>Weibo</em></em>

Promotional material of Downton Abbey: A New Era Photo: Sina Weibo

Downton Abbey
: A New Era
, the second sequel film that takes place after the events in the hit TV series Downton Abbey, is set to hit Chinese theaters as the only foreign language film in the region on Friday. But Chinese film observers are not optimistic about the film's chances due to the current sluggish film market and limited targeted audience in China.

In Chinese the number "520" is netslang for the phrase "I love you," and thus the date May 20 has been endowed with romantic significance, gradually becoming a day for romance films.

However, due to the current severe COVID-19 outbreak in the country, many cinemas in Chinese, especially in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, are closed, which has caused many studios to avoid the date and leaving the May 20 weekend film schedule quite stagnant and dull.

According to a document that Chinese ticketing platform Maoyan sent to the Global Times on Thursday, as of Wednesday, a total of 7,817 theaters, or 64.77 percent of theaters,  are still open in the mainland. 

Three domestic films originally scheduled for Friday have postponed their release date. Seeing an opportunity, some studios have moved in to take advantage of the situation. Chinese romance film Love Will Tear Us Apart will be re-released on Friday for its one-year release anniversary. Meanwhile, another love themed film Stay With Me, which premiered on Thursday, might be a competitor for the British historical drama film.

According to Maoyan, Downton Abbey: A New Era will rank at third place for screenings, following Love Will Tear Us Apart and Stay With Me

It seems that the British film could earn a big piece of the pie this weekend as it is currently ranked at 12th place on the most anticipated film list on Maoyan. 

As part of promotions for the film, the fictitious aristocratic Crawley family and their servants greeted Chinese moviegoers in a video, stirring up some interest among many Chinese netizens who said they would go and watch the movie.

However, film observers say that Downton Abbey: A New Era will not make any big waves this weekend, not only because of the pandemic shutdown, but also due to the small fan circle for the show in the country. 

"China only has a small number of die-hard fans of British dramas. The film itself might be excellent, but it is not a big IP that has a broad mass base," Xiao Fuqiu, a film critic based in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

He pointed out that the Sherlock Holmes TV series was once a smash hit globally and was even more popular than Downton Abbey, however, when episodes of the series screened in Chinese theaters, they didn't not perform very well in the Chinese film market.

"Based on the performance of the first sequel film, Downton Abbey: A New Era will not do well at the box office. Pessimistically speaking, it may not even break through 10 million yuan ($1.48 million)," Shi Wenxue, a film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

The first film sequel to the Downton Abbey TV series was released in the Chinese mainland on December 13, 2019 and only grossed 22.61 million yuan ($3 million), making up 1.36 percent of its global box office - $237 million.

The Downton Abbey franchise has spanned six seasons and two movie spin-offs. It focuses on the lives and legacies of fading nobility in the English countryside in the early 20th century, and gained a huge following in the UK and the US.