LOS ANGELES (REUTERS) – In a box office win fit for a queen, Focus Features’ Downton Abbey ruled over the competition in North America.

The big-screen continuation of the popular British television show beat expectations with US$31 million (S$42 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.

Overseas, the royal period drama has collected US$41 million to date for a worldwide tally of US$61.8 million. 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 mostly of older females, awarded the film with an A CinemaScore – the highest grade among last weekend’s new offerings. For comparison, Ad Astra landed a B- and Rambo: Last Blood secured a B. As for Downton Abbey, 74 per cent of ticket buyers were female and 60 per cent 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 Ms 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.”

Meanwhile, Ad Astra looks to have pulled slightly ahead of Rambo: Last Blood in North America, arriving on the higher end of projections with US$19.2 million from 3,450 venues. Still, the astronaut drama starring Brad Pitt and directed by James Gray will need to have a long journey in multiplexes to justify its US$80 million price tag.

Ad Astra follows Roy McBride (Pitt), an astronaut on a mission across time and space to uncover the truth about his missing father. The cast also includes Tommy Lee Jones, Ruth Negga, Liv Tyler and Donald Sutherland.

Though Rambo: Last Blood was forecast to lead box office charts, the final chapter in Sylvester Stallone’s action franchise should finish the weekend in third place. The film earned US$19.015 million from 3,618 locations, in line with studio expectations and slightly ahead of 2008’s Rambo (US$18.2 million), the latest entry to grace the silver screen. Adrian Grunberg directed the film, which was co-written by Stallone.

Rambo: Last Blood is expected to be Stallone’s final go-around as John Rambo, a character first introduced to audiences in the 1980s. To no surprise, older men accounted for majority of opening weekend crowds: 66 per cent of opening weekend crowds were male, while 42 per cent were over the age of 30.

After two weeks atop domestic box office charts, Warner Bros’ It: Chapter Two slid to No. 4. The sequel, based on Stephen King’s terrifying novel, pulled in US$17.2 million during its third outing for a domestic tally of US$179 million.

Rounding out the top five is STX’s Hustlers with US$17 million, an especially promising figure considering three new films debuted last weekend. After two weeks of release, Hustlers has amassed US$62 million in North America and US$9.84 million overseas for a worldwide haul of US$72 million. The film – directed by Lorene Scafaria and starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart – cost US$20 million to produce.

Not all holdovers were as fortunate. Warner Bros’ The Goldfinch plummeted to No. 15, scraping together just US$760,000 from 2,542 theatres during its second weekend in theatres. Ansel Elgort stars in the movie adaptation of Donna Tartt’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which has made US$4.5 million to date. Though Amazon Studios co-financed The Goldfinch, the US$45 million film still stands to be a big money loser for Warner Bros.