New Line Cinema's The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the third and final installment in director Peter Jackson's fantasy epic, continued its reign at the box office with a cork-popping take of $51.2 million* over the holiday weekend. What's more, The Return of the King posted the best Christmas day gross ever, taking in $14.5 million on Dec. 25 alone. The film also crossed the $200 million mark after only 11 days, beating The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which took 12 days. That's definitely good news for New Line, whose Rings trilogy was a $300 million-plus make-or-break investment for the studio. Combined with the spirited take of four new wide releases, The Return of the King's strong legs also helped make this weekend the biggest Christmas weekend in box office history.The comedy Cheaper by the Dozen triumphed over rival newcomers hitting theaters this weekend, opening in second place with a generous three-day take of $28.2 million. The family comedy was followed by Cold Mountain, which debuted in the No. 3 position with nippy $14.5 million. Aided by its eight Golden Globe nominations and inclusion on many critics' Top 10 lists, the American Civil War drama is on a likely track for key Oscar nominations. Something's Gotta Give, now in its third week of release, placed fourth with $14.2 million, while the new Ben Affleck sci-fi thriller Paycheck, rounded out the Top Five with a foreseeable opening take of $13.9 million. The family pic Peter Pan, the last of this week's wide releases, kicked off in seventh place with a not-so-magical take of $11.4 million.Although this week's four new releases produced a combined first-day box office tally of almost $22 million, Paul Dergarabedian, president of the box office tracking service Exhibitor Relations, told The Associated Press Sunday the industry's total yearend box office revenues would likely fall short of last year's $9.3 billion record, marking the first year-to-year decline since 1991."The end of the year is looking pretty good," Dergarabedian said. "But not enough to jump ahead of last year's revenues ... because 2002 was so amazing."Last year, Hollywood benefited from an abundance of blockbusters, such as Spider-Man, Star Wars: Episode II--Attack of the Clones, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and the sleeper hit, My Big Fat Greek Wedding.The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $168.6 million, up 26.39 percent from last weekend's $133.4 million take and up 8.18 percent from last year's $155.8 million.THE TOP TENNew Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King kept its No. 1 stronghold in its second week of release with an ESTIMATED $51.2 million (-29%) at 3,703 theaters (unchanged; $13,833 per theater). Its cume is approximately $223.6 million. Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Ian McKellen, Sean Astin, Liv Tyler, Miranda Otto, Billy Boyd and Dominic Monaghan.Twentieth Century Fox's PG rated comedy Cheaper by the Dozen debuted in second place with $28.2 million in 3,298 theaters, with an $8,558 per theater average. In the film, a contemporary remake of the 1950 Walter Lang comedy based on the novel by Ernestine Gilbreth Carey and Frank B. Gilbreth, mayhem ensues as a couple moves their large family of 12 children from a small town to an affluent Chicago suburb.Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff and Tom Welling. Miramax Films' R rated Civil War drama Cold Mountain opened in third place with $14.5 million in 2,167 theaters with a $6,691 per theater average. In the film, a Confederate soldier makes the arduous journey from the front lines of the Civil War to his home in Cold Mountain, N.C., where his ladylove has been fighting battles of her own.Directed by Anthony Minghella, it stars Jude Law, Nicole Kidman and Renee Zellweger. Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give dropped one spot to fourth in its third week with an ESTIMATED $11.4 million (+24%) at 2,709 theaters (+32 theaters; $5,242 per theater). Its cume is approximately $56.3 million. Directed by Nancy Meyers, it stars Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand.Paramount Pictures' PG-13 rated sci-fi thriller Paycheck kicked off in the No. 5 position with $13.9 million in 2,762 theaters with a $5,033 per theater average. In the film, a "reverse-engineer" who has had three years of his memory erased by a multimillion-dollar corporation, tries to piece together his past using a collection of random objects.Directed by John Woo, it stars Ben Affleck and Uma Thurman.*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated drama Mona Lisa Smile fell from its runner-up position last week to sixth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $11.5 million (unchanged) in 2,677 theaters (unchanged; $4,296 per theater). Its cume is approximately $31.4 million.Directed by Mike Newell, it stars Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles.Universal Pictures' PG rated family pic Peter Pan opened in seventh place with $11.4 million at 2,813 theaters with a $4,053 per theater average. In the film, based on the classic J.M. Barrie novel, the Darling family children receive a visit from Peter Pan, who takes them to Neverland where an ongoing war with the evil pirate Captain Hook is taking place.Directed by P.J. Hogan, it stars Jeremy Sumpter, Jason Isaacs and Ludivine Sagnier. Warner Bros.' R rated period actioner The Last Samurai, fell four spots to eighth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $8.3 million (+8%) in 2,557 theaters (-381; $3,273 per theater). Its cume is approximately $74.3 million.Directed by Edward Zwick, it stars Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Spall.Miramax Films' R rated dark comedy Bad Santa dropped two rungs to ninth place in its fifth week with an ESTIMATED $4.5 million (-11%) at 1,710 theaters (-515 theaters; $2,644 per theater). Its cume is approximately $50.9 million. Directed by Terry Zwigoff, it stars Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Tony Cox and John Ritter.New Line Cinema's PG rated holiday comedy Elf fell five places in its eighth week to round out the Top 10 with an ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-22%) at 2,015 theaters (-436 theaters; $2,122 per theater). Its cume is approximately $164.8 million. Directed by Jon Favreau, it stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel and Mary Steenburgen.OTHERSSony Picture Classics' PG-13 rated dance drama The Company debuted in 11 theaters with $96,939, with a $8,813 per theater average.The film centers on a Chicago ballet company--the difficult daily work, the intense pressures of performance and the richly textured behaviors of the dancers, whose professional and personal lives grow impossibly close.Directed by Robert Altman, it stars Neve Campbell, James Franco and Malcolm McDowell.New Market's R rated biopic Monster opened in four theaters with $84,156 with an impressive $21,039 per theater average. The dark tale is based on the true story of Aileen Wuornos, one of America's first female serial killers.Directed by Patty Jenkins, it stars Charlize Theron and Christina Ricci.WEEKEND COMPARISON Last year, New Line's PG-13 rated The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers came in at No. 1 in its second week with $48.8 million in 3,622 theaters (unchanged; $13,494 per theater); DreamWorks' biopic Catch Me If You Can opened in second place with $30 million 3,156 theaters ($9,523 per theater); Warner Brothers' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice followed in third place in its second week of release with $15.5 million in 2,755 theaters (unchanged; $5,633 per theater).
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