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Downton Abbey: A New Era - What We Know So Far

The Crawley family is headed back to theaters very soon with "Downton Abbey: A New Era." The wealthy English clan and their staff were the focus of the successful series "Downton Abbey," which ran for six seasons. A "Downton Abbey" movie arrived in 2019 — just a few years after the show wrapped — and took in over $193 million worldwide on its $13 million budget (via Box Office Mojo).

Given the first movie's success — not to mention the vast "Downton Abbey" fandom and merchandise spawned by the TV show (via Town & Country) — it's not surprising that a sequel film was greenlit in 2020 (via Deadline). "A New Era" is directed by Simon Curtis, the husband of series lead Elizabeth McGovern. Curtis took the reigns of the franchise from Michael Engler, director of the 2019 film. Julian Fellows, creator of the historical drama series, penned the script (via IMDb).

With the "A New Era" release looming on the horizon, fans of the enduring franchise may be curious about the movie's plot, when they'll see it, and which stars will return. Here's what we know so far about the next "Downton Abbey" film.

Updated March 21: This article has been updated with the most current release date. 

What is the release date of Downton Abbey: A New Era?

"Downton Abbey: A New Era" will be released on May 20, 2022 (via Deadline). This is two months later than the film's original release date of March 18, which Focus Features pushed back in January. The studio will also distribute the film along with Universal Pictures International. Previously, "A New Era" was supposed to hit theaters on December 22, 2021, but it was bounced from that pre-Christmas slot due to filming delays (via People Magazine).

Filming took place during spring and summer 2021 in England after all of the film's principal actors received the COVID-19 vaccination. Details of the shoot were revealed by "Downton Abbey" star Hugh Bonneville in a February 2021 interview on BBC Radio 2's "The Zoe Ball Breakfast Show" (via Variety). According to Focus Films' press release, audiences will only be able to watch "Downton Abbey: A New Era" in theaters. Don't expect a simultaneous streaming release, though the film will be released internationally on the same date.

Who will be in the cast of Downton Abbey: A New Era?

According to the Focus Features press release, many "Downton Abbey" actors will return for "A New Era." That includes Elizabeth McGovern and Hugh Bonneville as heads of family Cora and Robert Crawley, 7th Earl of Grantham; Dame Maggie Smith as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham; Michelle Dockery and Laura Carmichael as Cora and Robert's daughters, Lady Mary Talbot and Edith Pelham, Marchioness of Hexham, respectively; and Jim Carter as Charles Carson. 

Additionally, thanks to the IMDb page for "A New Era," we know that Mary and Edith's respective spouses, Henry (Matthew Goode) and Bertie (Harry Hadden-Paton), will show up. Similarly, Tuppence Middleton will return following her introduction as Lucy Smith in the 2019 "Downton Abbey" movie. As for the essential house staff characters, Joanne Froggatt's Anna Bates will be back, as will her husband, John Bates (Brendan Coyle). Heads of staff Elsie May Carson (Phyllis Logan) and Mrs. Patmore (Lesley Nicol) will also return to lead household affairs. We'll also go ahead and guess that the young actors who play Mary, Edith, and late sister Sybil's children will all pop up, too.

The returning cast will be joined by some new faces, too. Per the Focus Features announcement, "A New Era" will feature newcomers Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye, and Dominic West. These additions will be playing brand-new (and, thus far, unnamed) characters in the new movie. 

What is the plot of Downton Abbey: A New Era?

According to a teaser for "Downton Abbey: A New Era," which debuted at CinemaCon in August 2021 (via Deadline), the Crawleys are headed overseas for the second film. It seems America will experience a British invasion a few decades early. There is also the slim possibility the whole family and their closest staff may be headed to Canada instead. The country was, after all, emerging from British rule and beginning to see itself as an independent entity in the late 1920s and early 1930s (via History). 

Per the Deadline report, there are hints that a fresh romance is afoot for one of the characters, with some wedding scenes reportedly appearing in the CinemaCon teaser. Could this be the wedding of Daisy (Sophie McShera) and Andy (Michael C. Fox) fans have been waiting to see? Or is a different couple preparing to say their "I do"s? Naturally, there is also a zinger from Violet Crawley (Maggie Smith), who says the final line in the teaser to Dominic West's character: "What a colorful life you lead" (via Entertainment Weekly). That might be the last amusingly barbed remark we ever hear from Violet; it's revealed in the 2019 "Downton" movie that the character may be suffering from a terminal illness. 

As for the time period of "A New Era," we know that the 2019 "Downton Abbey" movie took place in 1927. The "Downton" sequel pic may take place on the eve of the stock market crash of 1929, which leads to the Great Depression. Will the Crawleys have to — (gasp) — deal with a sudden hit to their vast fortune? You'll have to head to your local theater in 2022 to find out.