After retracting the initially planned holiday release date of Christmas 2021, the Downton Abbey sequel is back on the big-screen schedule. Producing partner Focus Features, the Comcast-owned indie studio that distributed the first Downton Abbey film, made the sequel a significant part of their presentation at CinemaCon in Las Vegas this week. As part of Universal Studios' overall presentation day, Focus Features screened the first trailer for the new film, confirming a new release date and a title. Downton Abbey: A New Era will debut only in theaters on Friday, March 18, 2022.
That Downton Abbey was getting a big-screen sequel was never a matter of if but when, after the first film broke box office expectations in a big way. What was a surprise was how fast production seemed to move once the announcement came. Getting the sprawling cast to line up their availability has been one of the biggest hurdles in producing more films. But the pandemic came with a silver lining that it upended so much of the U.K. filming schedule that Carnival Films and Focus Features could lock everyone in, with filming starting earlier this summer.
The initial Downton Abbey film, which followed a Royal Visit by the King and Queen of England to the Grantham Estate, was set in 1927, about 18 months after the series finale. The sequel was originally referred to as Downton Abbey 2, but the new film's title suggests the story will finally grow closer to the 1930s. Though fans don't know when the new movie will be set, a time jump of the same span would take the series right up to the end of the Roaring 20s and directly into the great depression and the first whispers of World War II.
Even before the pandemic, CinemaCon had become one of the calendar's most prominent events for theater owners. It draws in production studios worldwide, who debut their upcoming release slates and exclusive teasers to get the big screen purveyors excited to help promote their upcoming titles. The presentation in Las Vegas is the first time the event has been held in person since the pandemic shutdowns rocked the industry last year, and studios are eager to make a good impression on beleaguered owners beset by audiences who still feel it's safer to stay home and stream.
To that end, the Downton teaser shown was kept exclusive for those in attendance. However, reports suggest it was less a spoiler-laden reveal of the film's new plot and more an impressionistic montage of "glitz, glamour, and jazz" as well as images of a wedding for at least one unspecified character. According to Deadline, who had eyes in the room, at one point, Mr. Carson quips: "The British are coming." there is no word of when (or if) Focus Features plans to release this teaser to the public, or when first photos will arrive.
The new film will once again star the entire core cast of the original series, including (deep breath!) Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Michelle Dockery, Laura Carmichael, Allen Leech, Matthew Goode, Harry Hadden-Paton, Penelope Wilton, and Maggie Smith upstairs and Jim Carter, Phyllis Logan, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt, Rob James-Collier, Kevin Doyle, Raquel Cassidy, Michael Fox, Sophie McShera, and Lesley Nicol downstairs. Imelda Staunton will also return as Lady Maud Bagshaw from the first film. Guest stars include Hugh Dancy (Hannibal), Laura Haddock (The Capture), Nathalie Baye (The Return of Martin Guerre), and Dominic West (The Crown).
Downton Abbey: A New Era debuts exclusively in theaters on March 18, 2022.