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The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King continues to break box office records

Story by: Jack Foley

HOBBITS continued to run rings around the opposition at the Box Office this Christmas, despite some big name releases across the globe.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King powered its way towards $500 million after less than two weeks, following its release on December 17, 2003.

According to studio estimates, the final film in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy grossed $492.1 million (£278 million) from North America and 38 countries elsewhere, in the days leading up to December 28, 2003.

The epic film, which is tipped for Oscar glory, is outpacing both its predecessors and should reach $1 billion, according to Rolf Mittweg, president of worldwide marketing and distribution at New Line Cinema, the film’s distributor.

The Return of the King’s global haul of $268.4 million includes $48 million from Britain, $45 million from Germany and $30 million from France.

"With the release of each film, the emotional resonance and dramatic impact have only increased," Mittweg added, when asked to comment on the reasons behind the films’ continued success.

However, despite its domination, The Return of the King has some way to go before it usurps the all-time box office success story, Titanic, which grossed about $1.8 billion worldwide.

The first film in the trilogy, "The Fellowship of the Ring" earned $865 million worldwide.

The success of The Return of the King, in America, helped to drive ticket sales to a record high for the Christmas weekend, with other big names including family favourite, Cheaper by the Dozen (starring Steve Martin), and Cold Mountain also faring well.

The combined gross of the top 12 films ($168.6 million represents an eight per cent increase over the year-ago period, which previously held the record for a Christmas weekend.

POSTED EARLIER: It may not come as that much of a surprise, but The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King has set a US Box Office record for a film opening on a Wednesday.

The final film in the trilogy amassed $34.1m (£19.2m) in tickets in the US, and $23.5 (£13.2m) in the rest of the world, beating the record held by Star Wars: The Phantom Menace.

The overall one-day opening record is still held by Spider-Man (the sequel to which opens next May), at a total of $39.4m (£22.2m), followed by The Matrix Reloaded, with $37.5m (£21.1m).

But distributor, New Line, anticipates that the movie will break the $1bn (£570m) global box office barrier, and surpass the current box office record holder, Titanic, which took $1.83bn (£1bn) in 1997.

Executives are also hoping that the latest movie's fast start will propel it beyond the worldwide totals made by The Fellowship of the Ring ($861m/£493m) and The Two Towers ($921m/£527m).

It already looks certain to surpass the $102m (£57.5m) that The Two Towers earned during its first five days.

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