Downton Abbey: The Movie is finally here, and it’s surely just the start for the former ITV period drama on the big screen.
Already, plans are in place for a sequel, and star Hugh Bonneville is talking about how the film could be “the start of a franchise” – but why stop there? These days, having a franchise is child’s play, something the Downton team could pull off in their sleep.
No, what we’re envisaging for Downton Abbey’s future is much bigger – a full-fledged, densely populated and intertwining Downton Cinematic Universe (DCU) packed with sequels, spin-offs, brand extensions, post-credits scenes and more. If it works for superheroes, why can’t it work for the super-rich?
And after peeking into our (genuine, footman-polished) crystal ball, we reckon we have a pretty good idea of how the DCU’s first few years could pan out…
Downton Abbey (2019)
In 1927, the Crawley family prepare for the unexpected arrival of the King and Queen.
Post-credits scene – Wallis Simpson emerges from the shadows, ominously smoking a cigarette, as a friend mentions a place called Downton Abbey…
The Bates of the Furious (2020)
A blood-soaked prequel story imagining the first days of Robert (Hugh Bonneville) and John Bates (Brendan Coyle) in The Boer War. While a misunderstanding puts them on a frosty foot, the unlikely pair are forced to band together when trapped away from the battlefield.
Told with framing device of Bates looking through his old photos while various getting-dressed-based valet emergencies are ignored in the background.
Post-credits scene – Maggie Smith turns out to have been the unhappy recipient of the story, admits she hadn’t really been listening.
Black Widow: A Lady Mary Story (2021)
When Mary’s (Michelle Dockery) ex-lover Tony Gillingham (Tom Cullen) is murdered, a quick-witted detective (Stephen Graham) realises the trail of dead men (Matthew, Mr Pamuk) left in Mary’s wake. Under suspicion, Mary (Michelle Dockery) must go on the run to clear her name, catch the real killer and – if she can – save her marriage.
Post-credits scene – in an empty room, a radio broadcast warns of the Wall Street Crash of 1929…
2021 NEWSFLASH – In a surprise disagreement over pay, Thomas Barrow actor Rob James-Collier abruptly departs the DCU, and a new star is drafted in…
“Obviously we’re sad to see Rob go,” a spokeperson says, “but we wish him all the best for the future after years of incredible work playing Barrow.
“Now we can’t wait for Don Cheadle to slip into Thomas’ iconic white gloves and continue his incredible story.”
Cor(a): Ragnarobert (2022)
In 1929, the Wall Street Crash means that Robert loses his third (or fourth?) fortune, and must travel to America with Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) to find a new source of income.
Guest starring Richard Gere as Mr Harwood, an old-money American with a complicated history with Cora.
Post-credits scene – Tom Branson looks up, frowning, as the roof of Downton Abbey drips water.
Down2n Abbey: Age of Branson (2022)
In a bigger-budget sequel, part of Downton’s roof falls down, causing chaos among the family, their guests and the servants.
With Robert and Cora still abroad and Lady Mary indisposed following the events of her solo movie, it falls to Branson (Allen Leech) to take charge of repairs and get the Abbey shipshape in time for an important visitor – but can his former colleagues fully accept Branson as the acting Lord of the manor?
And what will his revolutionary Irish friends think of him when they (implausibly) drop by for a visit?
Post-credits scene – Prince Edward, talking to Wallis Simpson a few years later, decides they need to get off the grid for a few days to avoid more scandal. She suggests a manor house she heard about recently – Downton Abbey…
Cousin Violet: The Winter Smoulder (2023)
A prequel exploring the torrid affair between Violet Crawley and Prince Igor Kuragin of Russia, carried out in secret glances and snatched kisses around the Winter Palace before both, sadly, return to their marriages and leave their romance behind in the snow.
In a casting coup, Michelle Gomez and Richard Madden are hired for the central roles.
Post-credits scene: In the present day, Violet (Maggie Smith) looks sadly back over her photos. Suddenly, a noise disturbs her – it’s Robert, with dire news of the future…
(Manchester) Guardians of the Gentry (2023)
Lady Edith’s (Laura Carmichael) journalism career takes a “left” turn when she takes a new job as the editor of the Manchester Guardian, and must win over the fiery non-conformists on her staff when a big story threatens the future of the paper.
Unfortunately, despite positive reviews the film is a box-office bomb, and plans for a sequel are quietly shelved.
Post-credits scene – comedy moment where Edith shifts through old newspaper cuttings in her Manchester Guardian office, all of which seem to concern the various murders Mr Bates was accused of in the past.
Mary: Live Fast or Downton (early 2024)
Taking over from her ex-racer husband, Mary must learn the ropes of race-car driving in a Days of Thunder-esque sports adventure, or risk losing a sizable portion of the Downton Estate. A “spiritual successor” to the original Lady Mary movie, but not a direct sequel.
In a post-credits scene, Mary reminisces with Carson the butler (Jim Carter) about his past in the circus. “If only you knew the whole truth,” he whispers, hastily scrunching up a carnival flyer when her back is turned.
2024 NEWSFLASH – incorporation of Upstairs Downstairs characters into the DCU.
After months of rumours and denials, it’s revealed that Downton Cinematic Universe will add a new cast of characters from the Upstairs Downstairs franchise into their ranks.
“At last, the Bellamys have found their natural home!” a spokesperson said in a release.
“The shared DNA of these two beloved universes always seemed like a good match, and we’re pleased to say that we have plenty of exciting storylines planned ahead. Welcome to Upstairs Downton!”
It’s currently unclear what the new purchase means for the fledging Upstairs Extended Universe (UEA), though it seems likely that upcoming release Dark Prudence may be the closing chapter for the current cast.
Carson About (early 2024)
Set between the end of the Downton TV series but before the original Downton Abbey movie, a newly-retired Carson struggles to fill his days until some of his old circus compatriots come to him with an unusual prospect – put on a show with them to help save their company.
But can fusty old Carson regain his youthful bonhomie in time for the big performance in this offbeat comic story? Without giving anything away… yes, yes he can.
Post-credits scene – a scene taken directly from Inheritance War when a mysterious figure walks up the path to Downton Abbey, a grim look on his face and a grubby piece of paper in his hand…
Downton Abb3y: Inheritance War (2024)
In 1934, Downton is rocked when they’re forced to host a reception for Prince Edward and Wallis Simpson. Can the family refuse the request?
Meanwhile, another supposedly-dead heir to Downton emerges to challenge Mary’s son George, and the staff and family must band together to oust him for good. But when the fate of the entire house lies on one game of cribbage, can they tempt veteran player O’Brien (Siobhan Finneran) back from her new life in Monte Carlo?
No post-credits scenes – but fans who wait until the end of the credits are rewarded with the faint sound of the Dowager Countess tutting at an unseen (and to the audience, unheard) slight.
2025 NEWSFLASH – Downton Cinematic Universe loses the rights to Mrs Patmore
In a shock move, talks break down between Julian Fellowes and Sony, meaning that beloved Head Cook Mrs Patmore can no longer appear in the Downton Cinematic Universe.
“We made four great movies with Mrs Patmore, and we can only be happy with that,” Julian Fellowes says in a release. “We wish Sony all the best, and can’t wait to see where the character goes next.”
Sony have now reportedly begun early planning for their shared Mrs Patmore Cinematic Universe, which may cross over with Tom Hardy’s Venom.
PHASE THREE – to be continued….
Rumours abound for what the future holds for the DCU, with all sorts of projects reportedly in development.
Could Doctor Clarkson in the Multiverse of Madness finally get off the ground? Will Tom Branson’s tech-focused Irish Man trilogy escape from development hell? And what about the big Downton/Peaky Blinders crossover that’s been teased in background Easter Eggs since Phase One?
But many fans are most excited for what awaits the DCU when it finally launches its much-anticipated SVOD service, Crawley+.
A one-stop streaming shop for all the Downton movies and spin-offs, and the future home of small-screen adventures for beloved characters, Crawley+ is bound to revolutionise Downton storytelling with – get this – multi-part developing stories stretched out over multiple episodes, rather than all the storylines stuffed into one too-short movie runtime.
In other words, finally, Downton Abbey will be on TV screens around the globe. To paraphrase what Lord Grantham says roughly 17 times a day, the world truly is… changing… all around us.
Downton Abbey is in UK cinemas now