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Seeing Downton Abbey on the big screen is an incredibly rewarding experience for Julian Fellowes. The creator of the Downton Abbey television series and writer of the new feature film never thought that a movie would actually happen, especially considering the busy schedules of all the actors involved. So when it did finally happen and Julian Fellowes got to see his characters on the big screen, it proved very gratifying, as he explained:
And actually one of the greatest pleasures of this latest adventure has been to sit in an enormous cinema and hear people all laughing together because you know, when you watch it on television you don't get that. You know, you have your wife who's seen it 16 times before and your son who's reading a book and that's it. And suddenly there you are in the middle of people finding it funny and I love that.
Seeing Downton Abbey on the big screen provided Julian Fellowes with the rewarding experience of being able to watch the audience react in real time to this story and these characters. Here he was specifically answering a question about writing for Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. He got great pleasure out of watching the audience react to his dialogue for the Dowager Countess and Lady Merton, delivered by these two talented actors on the big screen.
While watching Downton Abbey on the big screen in a huge auditorium, Julian Fellowes was able to hear and see the crowd laughing together at the film’s humor. This is an experience that he didn’t and couldn’t have had with the TV series, this reaction to his film could only be experienced in theaters.
As Julian Fellowes told WBUR, when watching at home, his family members may have already seen the episode or they might be distracted and not entirely engaged. In theaters you have a captive audience, there to see Downton Abbey and you are able to witness their honest reaction to the film. That honest reaction was one of laughter and enjoyment and Julian Fellowes got to experience that firsthand, which he found very rewarding.
It also had to be very cool just to see these characters that he created up on the big screen, presented in such a grand fashion. Although the lines between TV and movies are blurred these days and TV is no longer ‘lesser,’ a theatrical film still elevates Downton Abbey in a way.
It’s an interesting example of the differences for a creator between the big and small screens. Sure you can look at ratings and social media reactions and read articles to find out what people thought of an episode of TV, but that’s filtered and secondhand and delayed. Sitting in the theater with a crowd and having a communal experience allows you to witness reactions that are unfiltered and genuine and immediate.
Those reactions may not always matter as much in the grand scheme as those that can be measured with hard numbers, but it’s understandable that they would mean more. Thankfully for Downton Abbey, the hard numbers also validate that the film was a rewarding experience for audiences. The film from director Michael Engler beat out the competition and the tracking to have an excellent opening weekend and it's now over $111 million worldwide according to Box Office Mojo.
It’s the kind of performance that opens the door for other TV shows to try their hand at the big screen for a similarly rewarding experience. For Downton Abbey, it certainly seems possible that Julian Fellowes will find himself sitting in a theater with an audience watching the Crawley family again if a sequel gets made, although there are no plans for another movie at the moment.
Downton Abbey is now playing. Check out our 2019 Release Schedule to see what other movies are headed to the big screen this year.