With no new competition, "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" easily topped the box office for a third straight week, taking in $30.8 million over the New Year's weekend, according to studio estimates. (Click for photos from "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.")
The third and final installment in the fantasy series has already banked $292 million in the U.S. since its December 17 opening, putting it 12 percent ahead of where last year's predecessor, "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," was at the same time. The film has grossed $677 million worldwide to date, 15 percent better than the second installment during the same period.
Holding steady in second place was the Steve Martin comedy "Cheaper by the Dozen," which earned an estimated $21.9 million for a two-week total of $86 million. Climbing a notch was the Jack Nicholson/ Diane Keaton laugher "Something's Gotta Give," which brought in $12.5 million, giving it $81.7 million in receipts during its first three weeks.
The Nicole Kidman/ Jude Law Civil War drama "Cold Mountain" slipped a notch, but had a solid second-week showing in fourth place, earning $11.7 million. Despite generally poor reviews, the Ben Affleck action flick "Paycheck" held onto fifth place with receipts of $10 million. The week's surprise was the comedy "Calendar Girls," about a group of older British women who pose for a risqué calendar, which took home an estimated $4.6 million in just 745 theaters for a ninth-place finish.
Rounding out the top 10 are "Mona Lisa Smile" at #6 with $8.7 million; "Peter Pan" at #7 with $8.5 million; "The Last Samurai" at #8 with $7.5 million and "Bad Santa" at #10 with $3 million.
Tim Burton's well-reviewed drama "Big Fish" will open wide next week after a month in limited distribution, during which time it earned $8.4 million. Also opening is the Mandy Moore first-daughter comedy "Chasing Liberty" and "My Baby's Daddy," starring Eddie Griffin, Method Man and "Sopranos" star Michael Imperioli.
Box-office receipts were up 14 percent compared to the same weekend last year. Overall, though, ticket sales for 2003 were just under 2002's totals, the first time since 1991 that year-end numbers were down.