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Rambo aiming his rifle

It’s been 37 years since Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo first graced cinema screens in First Blood, and now the final chapter in the legendary soldier's story has arrived. Rambo: Last Blood opens in theaters this weekend and it got off to an early start on Thursday night. While last blood was being spilled on theater screens on opening night, the first dollars in Rambo V’s box office run were coming in at the box office.

Rambo: Last Blood made $1.3 million in preview screenings on Thursday night, according to Deadline. The opening night screenings for the fifth film in the Rambo franchise began at 7 p.m. and the R-rated film played in 2,900 locations. The $1.3 million opening night performance is just under the $1.5 million Angel Has Fallen did last month before going on to outperform expectations with a $21.3 million opening weekend.

Last Blood will expand out to 3,618 theaters over the weekend and after this $1.3 million start it is expected to enjoy a debut of around $23+ million. That number is in line with the more recent tracking that had the film pegged to open between $21-$24 million, revised up from the long-range forecast that had it only landing between $10-$20 million.

Anything over $20.1 million this weekend eclipses Rambo: First Blood Part II to give Rambo: Last Blood the franchise’s best opening. Based on its preview night and the tracking, Rambo: Last Blood looks like it will take the franchise out on a high note at the box office. However, while Rambo: Last Blood is looking good and might very well win the weekend, it did not win the box office battle on opening night.

If you had to guess what movie would win a box office battle between an action movie in an established franchise, a science fiction space epic and a period piece about the British aristocracy, you probably wouldn’t guess the period piece. But that’s exactly what played out Thursday night.

Downton Abbey won Thursday night with $2.1 million from 2,800 theaters. This is on top of the earlier $2.2 million the Focus Features film made last Thursday with preview showings. All told the film has made $4.3 million so far, and with positive exit scores and strong pre-sales, Michael Engler’s film is predicted to make over $23 million this weekend. It will be in a dead heat with Rambo for the top spot.

In addition to Downton Abbey, Rambo: Last Blood also fell short on Thursday night to James Gray’s Ad Astra starring Brad Pitt. That gorgeous and expensive sci-fi film made $1.8 million opening night in roughly 3,100 locations and is off to a stronger start than expected. It has been projected to open in the mid to high teens. Yet while it enjoys fantastic reviews, I don’t expect the slow burn nature of the film will spur major enthusiasm from general audiences.

Despite being critically panned compared to the contemplative and sumptuous Ad Astra, Rambo: Last Blood did slightly better than Ad Astra with opening night exits. So if audiences are liking it, that will certainly help in its battle with Downton Abbey this weekend.

Rambo: Last Blood is now playing. Be sure to read our refresher for everything you need to remember about the franchise before seeing the film, and check out the 2019 Release Schedule to see what else you can look forward to this fall.

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