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Records Fall to the Might of the King

December 22nd, 2003

Expectations for Lord of the Rings: Return of the King were huge, but unlike so many other movies with huge expectations that opened this year Return of the King didn't disappoint. A record-breaking performance lead to a huge 59% jump in the box office from last week. But the major letdown in other films led to a 2.3% drop from last year.

Lord of the Rings: Return of the King did break several records, but mostly for the month of December. Its weekend total of $72.6 million is the largest December weekend ever (to go with Wednesday's biggest December Day); and its five day total of $124.1 million is the largest 5 day weekend for a Wednesday release, topping Star Wars: The Phantom Menace by nearly $20 million. Reviews are at an amazing 97% positive and should help the film to some long legs. A final total north of $350 million is a safe bet, but $400 million is probably asking too much. On a side note: Return of the King was the 25th film to pass $100 million this year, breaking last year's record.

The counter-programming effort came up short as Mona Lisa Smile could only take in $11.5 million. That was only $100,000 above last week's winner, and with surprising low reviews it won't have the legs needed to become a hit.

Something's Gotta Give just beat expectations with $11.4 million. This represented a drop of less than 30% and could lead to a multiplier of 5.0, or more. Movies released this time of year can have very long legs, for instance, Miss Congeniality opened with less than $14 million in 2000 and went on to make more than $100 million. I'm not saying Something's Gotta Give will do that, but I wouldn't be all that surprised if it did.

While The Last Samurai didn't sink over the weekend, it is sinking. The week-to-week drop-off accelerated slightly to 45% landing at only $7.8 million. That is not what the studio was expecting. It may still limp over $100 million, but that is not very likely.

Definitely the surprise hit of the season, Elf managed one more weekend in the top five. It earned another $5.5 million this weekend and crossed $150 million on Friday.

Despite predictions to the contrary, Stuck on You missed the top five with $5.3 million. That figure did match predictions almost perfectly, but the surprise performance of Elf pushed it out of the top five.

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Filed under: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, Elf, Something's Gotta Give, The Last Samurai, Mona Lisa Smile, Stuck On You