Rings Lords It Over Box Office Again

Audiences are making a habit of hobbits. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring held up well in its second weekend, taking in $37.4 million to remain the No. 1 film.

Part one of the fantasy trilogy about hobbits, elves and wizards has grossed $154.5 million in just 12 days, according to studio estimates Sunday.

With Christmas preoccupations behind them, Americans flocked to movie theaters, giving the industry a big finish to another year of record revenue. The top 12 movies grossed an estimated $147.6 million, up 21 percent from last weekend and up 20 percent over last New Year's weekend.

"This weekend, it's like, Christmas is over, let's have fun, and a big part of that is going to the movies," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. "A lot of people also were at the malls returning presents, so it's inevitable a lot of them were going to catch a film, as well."

By the end of Monday, Hollywood's domestic revenues for 2001 will top out at about $8.35 billion, breaking last year's record of $7.7 billion, according to Exhibitor Relations.

The weekend gross for Lord of the Rings was off just 21 percent from a week earlier, an impressive hold considering the movie's three-hour length. The film is drawing considerable repeat business, and nearly two-thirds of movie-goers surveyed after seeing the film Saturday said they wanted to see it again, distributor New Line reported.

"It just seems to be capturing the imagination of audiences across the board," said Russell Schwartz, New Line president of domestic marketing. "It's certainly the most unique movie out there this Christmas."

A rush of films opened or expanded on Christmas Day. Will Smith's Ali came in at No. 3 for its first weekend with $15.3 million, pushing its six-day haul to $35.3 million. The Meg Ryan-Hugh Jackman romantic comedy Kate & Leopold grossed $9.5 million to finish at No. 7 in its first weekend, with a six-day total of $17.1 million.

A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe, was No. 8 with $7.2 million during its first weekend in wider release. The Shipping News grossed $1.2 million in its first weekend, playing in limited release.

With $11.46 million for the weekend, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone closed in on the $300 million mark. The year's top-grossing movie has taken in $286.1 million since opening the week before Thanksgiving.

Ocean's Eleven held strongly with $17.4 million. The casino-heist flick remained the No. 2 movie for the third straight weekend and has grossed $128.2 million in just over three weeks.

Ridley Scott's combat film Black Hawk Down, about a doomed U.S. military mission in Somalia, had a huge opening in limited release. The movie grossed $182,000 in four theaters, averaging a lofty $45,500 a screen.

Gosford Park, Robert Altman's ensemble film set at a 1930s British manor, had an impressive debut of $241,000, averaging $26,829 in nine theaters. Monster's Ball, a drama with Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry, took in $107,000 in five theaters for a $15,286 average.

The Sean Penn-Michelle Pfeiffer drama I Am Sam opened strongly in two theaters with $38,000. Charlotte Gray, starring Cate Blanchett as a British agent in World War II, debuted with $35,000 in five theaters.

The limited-release films, which opened narrowly to qualify for the Oscars, expand to more theaters in January.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. Final figures will be released Wednesday.

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, $37.4 million.

2. Ocean's Eleven, $17.4 million.

3. Ali, $15.3 million.

4. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, $15 million.

5. Vanilla Sky, $11.5 million.

6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, $11.46 million.

7. Kate & Leopold, $9.5 million.

8. A Beautiful Mind, $7.2 million.

9. Monsters, Inc., $6.5 million.

10. The Majestic, $5.6 million.