By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated December 26, 2001 04:43 PM
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The latest tally is in, and the results are magical, all right. “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” debuted with the largest December opening in box-office history, say trade reports. All told, the movie fantasy based on the J.R.R. Tolkien novel raked in an estimated $67.4 million during the five-day Christmas holiday. The movie, produced and released by New Line Cinema (which, like PEOPLE, is part of AOL Time Warner), played on 3,359 screens and mustered a stunning estimated gross of $95.3 million in its first seven days of release, the third-highest ever for a film released on a Wednesday, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The only films released midweek ever to have earned more were “Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace” ($124.7 million) and “Mission: Impossible 2” ($96.3 million). To add to the challenges faced by “Rings,” the movie runs nearly an hour longer than those two other films, as well as most others whose earnings it surpassed. (Long running times translate into fewer showings per day and, as a result, fewer tickets to sell.) The film’s success, in fact, is helping to boost the overall 2001 ticket tally. By the end of this week, the national box office is expected to cross the $8 billion mark for the first time in history. Meanwhile, however, not every Christmas moviemaker is singing “Jingle Bells.” “The Majestic,” starring Jim Carrey and directed by Frank Darabont (“The Green Mile”), opened in 2,361 theaters, yet only managed to bring in $7.8 million during the five-day holiday period, the star’s lowest gross to date. “Joe Somebody,” starring Tim Allen, looks to be another flop. It took in a bleak $5.2 million.