Stephen M. Silverman
December 29, 2003 05:42 PM

The final installment of director Peter Jackson’s epic take on the J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy, “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” generated $51.2 million in ticket sales over the long Christmas weekend, earning a total of $224 million in North America since opening two weeks ago, according to studio estimates.

The film fantasy also posted the best Christmas Day gross of any current movie, $14.6 million, reports the Associated Press.

Putting the numbers into perspective, the news service says that the third installment of the movie series has bested its predecessors by taking only 11 days to cross the $200 million mark – one day less than part two, “The Two Towers.” By Sunday, it already had taken in $492 million worldwide, according to its studio’s estimates.

All told, it was a bonanza weekend at ticket windows, with the total estimated box office receipts for the top dozen pictures ringing in at $168.6 million, a record, Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracking company Exhibitor Relations, tells AP.

Even Ben Affleck appears to have broken his “Gigli” jinx, with a respectable showing for his new movie, “Paycheck.”

The Top 10 movies for the weekend (Friday-Sunday), according to estimates, were as follows:

1. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” $51.2 million
2. “Cheaper By the Dozen,” $28.2 million
3. “Cold Mountain,” $14.5 million
4. “Something’s Gotta Give,” $14.2 million
5. “Paycheck,” $13.9 million
6. “Mona Lisa Smile,” $11.5 million
7. “Peter Pan,” $11.4 million
8. “The Last Samurai,” $8.4 million
9. “Bad Santa,” $4.5 million
10. “Elf,” $4.3 million

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