No hangover for hobbits

'King' rings in B.O. year with auld lang dollar sign

This article was updated at 5:49 p.m.

New Line’s franchise-capper “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” capped its domination of the holiday marketplace by three-peating atop the box office over the post-New Year’s weekend.

A Friday-Sunday haul estimated at $30.8 million brought the fantasy sequel’s 19-day cume to a fantastic $292 million. Twentieth Century Fox’s family comedy “Cheaper by the Dozen” repeated as weekend runner-up over its soph session, with $21.9 million.

Third place went to leggy adult laffer “Something’s Gotta Give” — a Sony-Warner Bros. co-prod distribbed by Sony domestically — which grossed $12.5 million in its fourth frame, or 10% more than over the previous weekend. But Miramax’s Civil War drama “Cold Mountain” was close behind with $11.7 million, boasting a skimpy 20% drop from its opening weekend.

Elsewhere, Disney’s “Calendar Girls” added 703 playdates for a total 745, and the Brit comedy made good use of its first weekend in wide release with $4.6 million in ninth place.

Industrywide, the weekend’s $151 million in total estimated grosses repped a 17% uptick from the same frame a year earlier. Perf was built on solid weekend-to-weekend holds throughout the top 10.

Even middling performers from a week earlier like Paramount scifier “Paycheck” maintained good market traction. Ben Affleck starrer grossed $10 million in its second weekend on a 26% drop from opening B.O. to produce a 10-day cume of $38.8 million.

“Peter Pan” — a co-prod from Universal, Sony and Revolution distribbed by U — grossed $8.5 million on a 24% drop from its opening session. Ten-day cume hit $33.8 mil.

No pics opened wide this weekend, but IDP/Goldwyn bowed drama “Japanese Story” in five L.A. theaters and grossed an estimated $27,000. That repped a solid $5,400 per venue with a $36,000 cume since a three-screen debut on Wednesday; Toni Collette starrer unspools in Gotham Jan. 16.

‘Monster’ grosses

The specialty market also produced several notable expansions this weekend.

Newmarket’s Charlize Theron starrer “Monster” continued to ring up monster grosses as it added four theaters for a total 14 and grossed an estimated $252,144, or $18,010 per venue. Serial-killer drama, which totes a cume of $477,350, expands to 100 runs on Friday.

Sony’s Tim Burton-helmed drama “Big Fish” added one theater for a total 125 and grossed $2.5 million, or a whopping $20,001 per venue with an $8.4 million cume. “Fish” splashes into wide release Friday with about 2,500 engagements.

Sony Classics’ docu “The Fog of War” added one theater for a total six and grossed $90,641, or an impressive $15,106 per venue with a $285,641 cume.

DreamsWorks’ drama “The House of Sand and Fog” added four locations for a total 442 and grossed $1.8 million. Perf repped a sturdy $4,131 per site with a $5.4 million cume.

And Fox Searchlight’s immigrant drama “In America” added two locations for a total 327 and grossed $1.3 million, or an acceptable $3,823 per site and a $5.4 million cume.

Pic pair to bow

Looking to next weekend — the first of the new box office year — two pics unspool in wide release. Warner Bros. bows Mandy Moore starrer “Chasing Liberty” and Miramax will open its urban-skewing “My Baby’s Daddy.”

Also, the highest profile specialty titles will be trying to sustain market momentum in advance of potential Oscar-nom bounce later in the month.

For instance, Focus Features’ “21 Grams” — which maintained 289 playdates this weekend to gross $1.4 million, or $4,706 per venue — has yet to cross into true commercial success. Still, arthouse-driven cume has crept to a respectable $7.3 million and awards prominence could add to pic’s coffers considerably.

Some pricey commercial pics, still legging their way toward dubious profitability, also will be hoping to bask in Oscar’s glow.

Perhaps chief in that category is Warner Bros.’ Tom Cruise starrer “The Last Samurai,” whose $7.5 million weekend brought five-week cume to $90 million. Unless awards propulsion prompts a substantial extension to pic’s theatrical run, distrib may have to look to homevid revenue to recoup enormous production and marketing costs on “Samurai.”

‘King’ rings up coin

Meanwhile, the final installment in New Line’s “Rings” trilogy continues to break B.O. records.

This week saw “King” set a new mark for New Year’s Day B.O. at $12 million. That bested a previous $11 million record for the holiday, set last year by franchise predecessor “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers.”

“King” cume moved to $292 million through just 19 days.

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