Focus Features has officially announced Downton Abbey 2 with the entire original cast returning. The studio has set production on the upcoming sequel with Gareth Neame's Carnival Films, and shooting on the project began last week. On the fast track to be released this Christmas, the sequel has also been given an official premiere date set for Dec. 22, 2021.

The original Downton Abbey movie followed a Royal Visit to the Crawley family and Downton staff from the King and Queen of England and ended with a ball fitting for the Royal Family. Based on the TV series of the same name, the movie adaptation was directed by Michael Engler and written by Julian Fellowes. It starred Hugh Bonneville, Jim Carter, Michelle Dockery, Elizabeth McGovern, Maggie Smith, Imelda Staunton, and Penelope Wilton.

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Along with the original cast, new cast members in Downton Abbey 2 include Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye, and Dominic West. Downton Abbey creator and Academy Award winner Julian Fellowes will return to write the movie's screenplay, with Emmy and BAFTA Award-winning Gareth Neame and Emmy Award-winning Liz Trubridge back to produce with Fellowes. BAFTA and Emmy nominated director Simon Curtis (My Week with Marilyn) will join the team to direct the sequel.

"After a very challenging year with so many of us separated from family and friends, it is a huge comfort to think that better times are ahead and that next Christmas we will be re-united with the much beloved characters of Downton Abbey," Neame said in a statement.

Focus Features chairman Peter Kujawski added, "There's no place like home for the holidays, and we can't imagine a better gift than getting to reunite with Julian, Gareth, and the entire Downton family in 2021 to bring the Crawley's back home for their fans."

The inclusion of the new cast members, including Hugh Dancy, has left many fans stoked to see the sequel. Responding to the announcement on Twitter, one fan posted, "OMG Hugh Dancy!! I guess I'll finally be sitting down to watch Downton Abbey in preparation for this film!!"

"FINALLY! So glad to hear," another fan said of the news. "Also glad to read that Dame Maggie Smith is going to return. So nice to have something to look forward to. Anxious to see dynamics of Mary & Edith since Edith is now a marchioness. SO EXCITING!!"

Other upcoming and current releases from Focus Features include the Academy Award nominated Promising Young Woman produced by LuckyChap Entertainment, acclaimed filmmaker Morgan Neville's upcoming documentary on Anthony Bourdain, the BAFTA® nominated Limbo from director Ben Sharrock, Edgar Wright's supernatural thriller Last Night in Soho from Working Title and his documentary film debut The Sparks Brothers, Robert Eggers' Viking epic The Northman starring Alexander Skaarsgard, Anya Taylor-Joy, Nicole Kidman, and Bjork, Justin Chon's powerful drama Blue Bayou and director Luke Holland's last film, Final Account.

Downton Abbey 2 is a Carnival Films production, with Focus Features and Universal Pictures International distributing. Carnival Films is part of NBCUniversal International Studios, a division of Universal Studio Group. Downton Abbey 2 will be released in theaters on Dec. 22, 2021. This news comes to us from Focus Features.