The Downton Effect: A sphere of influence

The impact of 6 seasons and its 52 episodes of Downton Abbey still leaves an imprint in today’s television landscape.   190,000 tweets, 24 million impressions in its final season with an estimated fanbase of 120 million worldwide.  Its accolades include 11 Emmy wins, 2 British Academy of Film & Television Awards, 3 Screen Actors Guilds Awards and a Producers Guild Award.  So there’s no question why the release today is one that’s fills the void of many since it ended 4 years ago and has the makings of a blockbuster success.   It’s UK premiere in Leicester Square brought together cast members onto the red carpet after 6 years demonstrating the show’s continued sphere of influence. 

Red Carpet Report: Sydney Premiere

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Georgia Dawes, & Christopher Haggarty, Lifestyle Influencers  Graeme Taylor / Universal Pictures

Among the media personalities spotted at the Sydney premiere were Ita Buttrose, David Koch and Jessica Rowe.

Absolutely brilliant.” exclaims Christopher Haggarty who was among the select few to see the film before the rest of the country.

This was one of the main points, Producer, Gareth Neame made when telling us what differences to expect between the television show and the film.   The main challenge was crafting enough story to get all characters in the spotlight for the jam packed two hours of screen time unlike the episodic format where they could take it in turns over the course of the season.

The movie also serves to take the old audience to a place of familiarity while being able to introduce these characters to a new one.   “It was done in such a clever way that even if you hadn’t watched the original series, you’d still become enthralled with the characters and the story.”  continues Haggarty.

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The introduction of new characters isn’t one that is taken lightly and in the plot of the movie allows the writers to add greater depth to the original cast.  “For fans like myself, it was a beautiful follow up to the stories and characters we enjoyed throughout the series”

“We discussed lots of different ideas for the movie and it was Julian Fellowes’ eventual decision to decide on the visit of the King and Queen to Downton.” describes Producer, Gareth Neame.   “It felt such a simple and single endeavour that all the characters could be involved in.  It would be a treat, an event and a challenge for the characters so that’s why we very quickly got behind that idea.   As a theme it’s introduced right from the opening frames and it begins as a rather exciting opportunity particularly for the servants to meet the Royal Family and have the proudest day of their lives. 

 It becomes clear that the Royal household has different ideas, and that although the King and Queen will be coming to visit, they’re going to do things their way.   The Buckingham Palace staff were going to take over meaning the moment of glory for our much-loved below stairs characters is going to be lost.  We see the servants really brought to a low ebb when they realise they’re completely redundant and are barely going to see the Royal Family, let alone serve them or cook for them. Gradually though, we see our heroes fight back and manage to find various distractions for the Royal staff that allow the Downton staff to step in and run the whole show.”


Behind the Scenes:


The influence of the aristocratic lifestyle:

Neame believes the power of Downton Abbey to captivate audiences today is because of its original contemporary writing style and not a straight adaptation from the book it is based on.   “All of us live in families and arrange ourselves into hierarchies whether that’s within our own families or in our workplaces.” he says,  “We understand that about the world and although Downton is a very heightened world with strict rules and codes of behaviour, as human beings anywhere on the planet we respond to those things, we understand the way that they’re behaving, and we enjoy the rarefied world that they inhabit.”

The 1920s period setting in which the show was set is one of prestige and luxury.  It’s influence so powerful it’s shaped and boomed the British economy:

BUTLERS

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Graeme Taylor / Universal Pictures Australia


Sarah Vestin Rahmani’s British Butler Academy experienced a tenfold increase in demand in two years during Downton Abbey’s peak  
(CBS News 16th Jan 2013) and an increased trend in wealthy families hiring butler (Mail Online, 11th July 2013)

ALCOHOL

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The drink reserved for the elderly, the show brought back a sense of cool to Sherry when Marks & Spencer reported a 15% increase in sales in 3 months during the airing season of the show.  (Mail Online, 5th Dec 2011) 

TOURISM

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The period drama attracted  £22billion in tourist dollars with the show attraction vacationers and fans from China, Japan and USA  (The Sun, 28th Dec 2014).  VisitBritain reported one in three UK tourists visit historic houses and castles spending £6.5billion during their stay  (Mail Online, 21st September 2013)


What to expect in the film:

“I want people to leave the theatre reminded that they love the show and why they love it. I want to leave them wanting more.”  says Neame,  “It’s a treat for the fans in particular. It’s a movie that I think everyone can enjoy but if you’re a real fan it brings you right back in connection with that place, that environment, those people, those characters with a whole new raft of stories packed into this two-hour movie. Downton is a world that had good and bad stories.   It had dark stories and bright stories, optimistic stories and negative stories, and yet overwhelmingly the sense of optimism is what we are left with. I’d love people to leave the theatre enriched, happy and remembering their love of Downton.”

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