It's good to be the King.
Taking in a regal $34.1 million on its record-breaking opening day Wednesday, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, the third and final installment of the J.R.R. Tolkien classic fantasy epic, easily lorded over the competition this weekend, rightfully claiming the throne with $73.6 million* and hitting a five-day total of $125 million--the best five-day Wednesday opening of all time.
The Return of King defeats previous record holder Star Wars: Episode I--The Phantom Menace, which opened in 1999 and took a five-day total of $105.6 million, while also beating out its predecessor The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, which opened the same weekend last year and managed a $102 million five-day haul. The first part of the Rings trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, opened in 2001 with a five-day total of $66.1 million.
"That is amazing. The worldwide sweep of this movie is unprecedented. To have a quarter-billion-dollar gross in five days shows what a broad swath this movie cuts," Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations, told The Associated Press. "These would be good numbers for a film to do in its entire run, but this is just the beginning."
The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers went on to take in $861 million and $921 million respectively, leading New Line Cinema to hope The Return of the King may break the $1 billion mark. "This thing is so gigantic, we really don't know where we're going," David Tuckerman, New Line's head of domestic distribution told AP Wednesday. The only film to ever earn $1 billion was Titanic, which took $1.8 billion worldwide.
Although the rest of the top 10 box office contenders paled in comparison, another newcomer to the box office race, the Julia Roberts' starrer Mona Lisa Smile, managed to take second place with $12 million. The romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give came in third with $11.5 million, while the sword-clashing The Last Samurai dropped to fourth place with $7.3 million. The conjoined twin comedy Stuck on You rounded out the top five with $5.4 million.
Other smaller fare openers this week included the delightful Calendar Girls and the tragic House of Sand and Fog.
THE TOP TEN
New Line Cinema's glorious PG-13-rated fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King premiered at No. 1 with an ESTIMATED $73.6 million in 3,703 theaters. Its $19,876 per theater average was the highest of any film playing wide this week. Since opening on Wednesday, its five-day cume is approximately $125 million.
In the final installment to the Tolkien trilogy, the good people of Middle-earth continue their fight against the evil Sauron, while Hobbit Frodo Baggins carries on his arduous quest to destroy the Ring and rid the land of its dark forces forever.
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.
Sony Pictures' PG-13-rated drama Mona Lisa Smile opened in second place with an ESTIMATED $12 million in 2,677 theaters with a $4,483 per theater average.
The film centers on a 1950s free-spirited, novice art history professor who encourages her students at an all-female college to strive for a more enlightened futures.
Directed by Mike Newell, it stars Julia Roberts, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst and Julia Stiles.
Given its mighty competition, Sony Pictures' PG-13-rated romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give last week's topper dropped to No. 3 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $11.5 million (-28%) at 2,677 theaters (unchanged; $4,296 per theater). The film, in which an older man dating a pretty twentysomething falls in love with her dynamic mother, has accumulated approximately $33.5 million to date.
Directed by Nancy Meyers, it stars Jack Nicholson, Diane Keaton, Keanu Reeves, Amanda Peet and Frances McDormand.
Warner Bros.' R-rated period actioner The Last Samurai, fell two spots to fourth place in its third week with an ESTIMATED $7.3 million (-48%) in 2,938 theaters (+30; $2,497 per theater average). Its cume is approximately $59 million.
Directed by Edward Zwick, it stars Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Tony Goldwyn and Timothy Spall.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13-rated comedy Stuck on You also fell two spots to No. 5 in its second week with an ESTIMATED $5.4 million (-43%) at 3,007 theaters (+4; $1,796 per theater). Its cume is approximately $17 million.
Directed by Peter and Bobby Farrelly, it stars Matt Damon, Greg Kinnear, Eva Mendes and Cher.
New Line Cinema's PG-rated holiday comedy Elf held onto sixth place in its seventh week with an ESTIMATED $5 million (-17%) at 2,451 theaters (-425 theaters; $2,040 per theater). Its cume is approximately $154.3 million.
Directed by Jon Favreau, it stars Will Ferrell, James Caan, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Zooey Deschanel and Mary Steenburgen.
Miramax Films' R-rated dark comedy Bad Santa held steady in seventh place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4.25 million (-29%) at 2,225 theaters (-315 theaters; $1,914 per theater). Its cume is approximately $42 million.
Directed by Terry Zwigoff, it stars Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Tony Cox and John Ritter.
Buena Vista's PG-rated horror comedy The Haunted Mansion dropped three notches to No. 8 in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $4.2 million (-32%) at 2,414 theaters (-587 theaters; $1,740 per theater). Its cume is approximately $59.1 million.
Directed by Rob Minkoff, it stars Eddie Murphy, Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason and Jennifer Tilly.
Dropping considerably, Warner Bros. PG-13-rated teen comedy Love Don't Cost a Thing tumbled five spots to take ninth place in its second week with an ESTIMATED $3.9 million (-37%) at 1,844 theaters (unchanged; $2,148 per theater). Its cume is approximately 11.4 million.
Directed by Troy Beyer, it stars Nick Cannon, Christina Millian and Steve Harvey.
Rounding out the top 10, Universal Pictures' PG-13-rated hip-hop drama Honey dropped two spots in its third week with an ESTIMATED $2.5 million (-47%) in 1,824 theaters (-148 theaters; $1,420 per theater). Its cume is approximately $23.4 million.
Directed by Bille Woodruff, it stars Jessica Alba, Mekhi Phifer and Lil' Romeo.
Buena Vista's PG-13-rated lighthearted Calendar Girls debuted in 24 theaters with an ESTIMATED $161,000, with a $6,708 per theater average.
Based on a true story, the film is about a group of older women who pose for a charity pinup calendar, become instant celebrities, and learn life lessons on their journey from England's Yorkshire Dales to Hollywood and back again.
Directed by Nigel Cole, it stars Helen Mirren and Julie Walters.
Dreamworks' PG-13-rated tragedy House of Sand and Fog opened in two theaters with an ESTIMATED $44,000,.
The film explores what happens when the American Dream goes terribly awry as a displaced Iranian colonel and an addict clash over the ownership of a small home.
Directed by Vadim Perelman, it stars Ben Kingsley and Jennifer Connelly.
The Top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $133.5 million, up a whopping 66.53 percent from last weekend's $80.2 million take but only up less than 1 percent from last year's $132.6 million.
Last year, New Line's PG-13-rated The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers opened at No. 1 with a hefty $62 million in 3,622 theaters ($17,120 per theater); in second place came Warner Bros. PG-13-rated romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice with $14.3 million in 2,755 theaters ($5,201 per theater); Sony Pictures' PG-13-rated romantic comedy Maid in Manhattan dropped to third place in its second week with $10.7 million at 2,866 theaters ($3,738 per theater).