At a time when Covid lockdowns mean that fewer films are screening in China’s cinemas – especially in cities like Beijing and Shanghai – a foreign movie made an unexpected debut in the country last week.
Downton Abbey: A New Era, the second film in the franchise inspired by the hit TV series Downton Abbey, was released last Friday. The latest Crawley family fare features much of the standard cast (albeit with a few new names like Hugh Dancy and Dominic West). But the show’s creator Julian Fellows decided there should at least be a change in scenery. Conveniently, the dowager (Maggie Smith) takes residence at a mysterious villa on the French Riviera. Most of Downton’s occupants follow her there, although the maids and footmen stay behind at the iconic stately home in Britain.
A bout of escapism on the French coastline wasn’t enough to lure China’s moviegoers to cinemas, however. The film collected just Rmb5.6 million ($840,448) in ticket sales on the first weekend of its release.
Some reckon that it is unlikely to even reach Rmb15 million in sales by the end of its run. “The British drama itself was not very popular in China. Even the first film in 2019 collected just Rmb22.6 million. Despite the strong ratings of the show on Douban [the TV and film review site], the franchise is only really adored by a small number of fans,” one film critic wrote. The feedback for the latest film was also scathing. “The ensemble cast is complicated and the plot is also garbage to be frank. It’s no wonder the second film is attracting even lower audiences.”
The China version of the movie is four minutes shorter than the one released in the rest of the world. Local film critics were not sure why. “The deleted scenes should have little influence on the general plotline. But don’t query why a period drama needs to be censored. Asking is pointless,” one befuddled Downton fan wrote.
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