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Lord Continues its Reign

By Tim Briody

December 28, 2003

Separated at birth: Peter Jackson and Chris Farley.

For the third consecutive year, a Lord of the Rings film spends the last weekend of the year at the top of the box office, each one with a higher total than the last.

The Return of the King, the final entry in the trilogy, earned $51.2 million over the weekend and $65.8 in the Christmas-Sunday period. In just 11 days of business, the hobbits have made an amazing $223.7 million. Last year's The Two Towers had just passed the $200 million mark at this point in its release.

Yes, it's down 30% from last weekend in a time when most films are supposed to increase their earnings, but watch the daily figures for the next week, and it's not that big a deal in the long run. Right now, it's looking quite likely that Return of the King will be the top grosser of the trilogy, giving the three films over $1 billion in business domestically. Remember what we said yesterday about history?

Second place goes to the first of four new films that opened Christmas Day. Cheaper By The Dozen, the rather bland looking comedy starring Steve Martin and Hillary Duff, earned an impressive $28.2 million over the weekend and has a four day estimate of $36.4 million. This one got the family dollars over the holiday weekend, and with a $40 million production budget, looks to have an extremely profitable next seven days. Steve Martin can chalk up 2003 as a very successful year, with this and Bringing Down the House certified hits.

In third comes Miramax Oscar hopeful Cold Mountain. The Civil War drama based on the best-selling novel took in $14.5 million over the weekend and an estimated $19 million since opening Christmas Day. With 8 Golden Globe nominations already in its pocket, the Jude Law/Nicole Kidman/Renee Zellweger film will be counting on solid word of mouth and awards attention over the next several weeks.

Something's Gotta Give takes fourth with $14.2 million over the weekend and $17.7 million since Christmas. The three day take is up 24.6% from last weekend, which is par for the course for a film aimed squarely at older audiences. this time of year. The Jack Nicholson/Diane Keaton picture has taken in $56.4 million after three weeks, and can start looking towards the $100 million mark in the coming weeks.

In fifth comes Paycheck, the latest Ben Affleck vehicle. The Philip K. Dick story earned $13.9 million over the weekend, and has an estimated take of $19.2 million since opening Thursday. Reviews for this one were mixed, and the film looks to have a fairly short shelf life once we're out of the holiday box office period.

Uber chick flick Mona Lisa Smile comes in sixth this week. This is a weird one. The Julia Roberts film earned $11.5 million from Friday-Sunday and has an estimated $14.2 million over the Christmas period, bringing its total to $31.5 million after two weeks. The three day take is pretty much identical to last weekend's total. In a time when most fairly recent holdovers improve on their last weekend's earnings, this is a very bad thing for Mona Lisa Smile. It's clear that the period piece just isn't clicking with audiences. Get back to romantic comedies stat, Julia (and that goes for both of you).

The final opener of the weekend, a live-action adaptation of Peter Pan, ends up in seventh with $11.4 million in three days and an estimated $15.1 million in its first four days of business. Parents who would have normally taken their children to this movie likely opted for Return of the King or Cheaper By The Dozen. All is not lost for the film starring...um, who's in this one again? The next few days will help it somewhat, but reaching that $100 million production budget (somebody just got fired) will be nigh impossible without a great deal of help.

Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai takes eighth this weekend, with $8.3 million for the weekend and an estimated $10.7 million over four days, bringing its total to $74.3 million after four weeks. It's three-day total is off around 2.5% from last weekend, but that's not horrible considering it's one of the older films in the top ten. The next week should bringing it closer to the $100 million mark, and it's likely WB will give it one final push some time next month to get it there.

In ninth and tenth place, we have the two Christmas themed films, both smash hits despite over $100 million in earnings separating them. Ninth goes to black comedy Bad Santa, crossing the $50 million mark with $4.5 million over the weekend and $5.9 million since Christmas. Elf takes tenth with $4.2 million and $5.6 million over the three and four day periods, respectively. Elf's total after eight weekends stands at $164.8 million while Bad Santa has $50.9 million in the till. Obviously, Christmas movies tend to lose their appeal after the holidays, and both films shed a few hundred screens each to the new releases and thus saw over 20% declines from the previous weekend. Both movies have seven more days of decent earnings before falling off the face of the earth.

The top ten films this weekend totaled $162.1 million, an increase from last year's $150.8 million. Credit the decent performances from all four newcomers, as opposed to last year which only got big numbers from The Two Towers and Catch Me If You Can.

The next week brings the new year, as well as some of the best daily box office numbers you'll see. BOP will be here, as Return of the King's march to history continues.

Top Ten for Weekend of December 26-28, 2003
Rank
Film
Number of Sites
Change in Sites from Last
Estimated Gross ($)
Cumulative Gross ($)
1
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
3,703
No Change
51.2
223.7
2
Cheaper by the Dozen
3,298
New
28.2
36.4
3
Cold Mountain
2,167
New
14.5
19.0
4
Something's Gotta Give
2,709
+32
14.2
56.4
5
Paycheck
2,762
New
13.9
19.2
6
Mona Lisa Smile
2,677
No Change
11.5
31.5
7
Peter Pan
2,813
New
11.4
15.1
8
The Last Samurai
2,557
-381
8.4
74.4
9
Bad Santa
1,710
-515
4.5
50.9
10
Elf
2,015
-436
4.3
164.9
11
Stuck On You
2,400
-607
3.5
24.3
12
Love Don't Cost a Thing
1,133
-711
3.1
16.5

     


 
 

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