Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes tells PEOPLE the upcoming sequel will be an "unashamedly feel-good movie."

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Credit: Ben Blackall/Focus Features

Return to the Abbey!

The Crawleys and their staff will be back for another movie later this year. Here's PEOPLE's first look at Downton Abbey: A New Era!

"It's really a new era," Downton creator Julian Fellowes tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "The further the '20s went along, the more the world was changing in so many ways. Everything from entertainment to transport was really different by the end of the '20s. That's what we're referring to in that."

Fellowes, 72, calls the movies "extensions of the series," which ran for six seasons, and says the upcoming installment will pick up where the last left off.

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Credit: Ben Blackall/Focus Features

"As we know from the last film, Mary may not be the titular head of the household, but she is effectively running the show. We take that further," the Oscar-winning writer says of the character played by Michelle Dockery. "We're trying to mark the change—the fact that Crawleys of Downton are nearly in the 1930s, which is merely the beginning of the modern world."

Dockery, 39, and the rest of the main cast—including Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Laura Carmichael and Jim Carter—will all be back for A New Era. Hugh Dancy, Laura Haddock, Nathalie Baye and Dominic West have also signed on for the sequel.

Though Fellowes can't say too much more about the forthcoming Downton film, he promises an "unashamedly feel-good movie."

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Credit: Ben Blackall/Focus Features
Downton Abby still 4
Credit: Ben Blackall/Focus Features

"I like the idea that people go into the movie and have a great two hours and then go out to have dinner. That seems to me to be a good thing," Fellowes says. "If we are useful for cheering people up and giving them an easy time of it, that doesn't bother me."

Downton Abbey: A New Era opens March 18, 2022.

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