LOS ANGELES – Talk about ringing in the New Year.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring easily held the top spot at the box office over the five-day New Year's holiday, collecting nearly $56.9 million.
The sword-and-sorcery epic based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novel has grossed nearly $174.1 million in its two weeks of release, according to box office analyst ACNielsen EDI Inc.
Two sequels filmed simultaneously by Fellowship director Peter Jackson -- The Two Towers and The Return of the King -- are set for release in December 2002 and December 2003.
The financial success of the first film shows the series has crossed over from the cult following of the books to mainstream audiences, said Russell Schwartz, president of domestic marketing at New Line Cinema, which made the films.
"The important thing now is that the movie has done significant business and has gone way beyond fans of the books to people who maybe have never even heard of the books," Schwartz said. "Who knows where it's going to end?"
The heist comedy Ocean's 11 came in a distant second with $26.1 million, while the computer-animated Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius was third with $22.2 million.
The Muhammad Ali biographical-drama Ali climbed from sixth place last week to the No. 4 spot with $20 million.
Meanwhile Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone held fifth place with $16.9 million. The fantasy tale about a boy wizard and his friends at an enchanted school will likely cross the $300 million mark this week, having already earned $291.5 million in seven weeks.
Overall, the New Year's weekend box office was 34 percent higher than last year, when Tom Hanks' Cast Away and Mel Gibson's What Women Want topped the list. However, that holiday was one day shorter than this year.
Rounding out the top 10 highest-grossing films of the weekend were Vanilla Sky in sixth place with $16.3 million and the romantic time-travel comedy Kate & Leopold at No. 7 with $14.5 million.
The Russell Crowe drama A Beautiful Mind, playing in limited release on only 525 screens, was eighth with $12.6 million, or a spectacular $24,055 per screen.
Comparatively, Lord of the Rings had $16,955 for each of its 3,359 venues.
The digitally animated Monsters, Inc. was No. 9 with $9.4 million, while the quixotic Jim Carrey drama The Majestic continued underperforming with $8.7 million for tenth place.