LOS ANGELES – The first installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy ruled theaters in its first week as Ali became the box-office champ of films opening on Christmas Day.
The adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring took in $47.2 million in its first three-day weekend. Opening last Wednesday, it grossed $94 million in its first full week.
Director Peter Jackson shot all three installments of the trilogy simultaneously, with part two scheduled for release around Christmas next year and part three in 2003.
"We have two more in the can just like this. You don't have to worry. They're there," said David Tuckerman, head of distribution for New Line, which is releasing the Lord of the Rings trilogy. "The quality of acting is the same, the landscapes are the same. The big difference is there's more action in the next two."
Ali, starring Will Smith as Muhammad Ali, raked in $10.2 million in its debut on Christmas. That beat the previous high for a Christmas debut, held by Patch Adams with $8.1 million.
"Muhammad Ali is probably the most known person around the world," said Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony, which released Ali. "And the good news is, everybody's heard of Will Smith. They are a great one-two combination."
Fellowship of the Ring had the best three-day weekend opening ever in December, a mark set two weeks earlier by Ocean's Eleven, which debuted with $38.1 million.
With its three-hour running time limiting the number of screenings theaters can fit in, the first Lord of the Rings did not break any major box-office records.
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, which shattered most major records a month earlier, padded its haul by $10.7 million from Friday through Christmas Day. That put it a fraction ahead of Shrek, making Harry Potter the year's top-grossing film at $267.8 million and counting.
With $90.3 million in its first weekend, Harry Potter had the best three-day premiere ever.
"Potter will easily break the $300 million mark," said Dan Fellman, head of distribution at Warner Bros., which is releasing the Harry Potter films. "It's the biggest movie ever in Warner history."
The industry also had a record revenue year, topping the $8 billion mark for the first time. Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations, estimated that ticket sales for 2001 will have totaled $8.35 billion through next Monday.