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''Rings'' posts a third weekend at No. 1

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Viggo Mortensen, The Lord of the Rings, ...
Lord of the Rings: Pierre Vinet

Score two early victories for ”The Lord of the Rings.” First, the epic blockbuster trumps its nine competitors (including ”A Beautiful Mind,” ”Moulin Rouge,” and ”In the Bedroom”) and wins the AFI award for movie of the year, and then it tops ”A Beautiful Mind” at the box office.

In its third weekend of release, ”The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring” grossed another impressive $23 million, according to estimates, bringing its total to $205.5 million and making it the sixth film released in 2001 to break the $200 million mark, an all-time record. Word of mouth is obviously quite strong on this film, and its run should only continue as it racks up more fans and more awards.

Russell Crowe’s acclaimed drama, ”A Beautiful Mind,” also performed strongly in its first weekend in wide release, earning $17 million and snagging second place. The film’s excellent $9,190 per-theater average means that most of the 1,853 theaters showing the film experienced sellouts throughout the weekend. ”Mind” will also benefit from awards attention (costar Jennifer Connelly picked up the AFI award for featured actress) as the next two months progress.

Two of December’s biggest hits each fell a notch this week. George Clooney and Brad Pitt’s crime comedy ”Ocean’s Eleven” walked away with another $11.8 million, while the family flick ”Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius” earned $9.2 million, both benefiting from great audience reviews and repeat business.

Rounding out the top five was another Oscar film, the Wes Anderson dysfunctional family comedy ”The Royal Tenenbaums,” which grossed an amazing $8.8 million in only 752 theaters (that’s $11,686 per theater). To illlustrate the popularity of the film, which stars Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, and Gwyneth Paltrow, last week it was the No. 2 grossing film in New York City, second only to ”The Lord of the Rings.”

The week’s only new entry, the poorly reviewed Gary Sinise sci-fi thriller ”Impostor,” opened miserably with only $3.2 million, not enough to even crack the top 10 despite showing in as many theaters as ”A Beautiful Mind.” If only they’d opened it last week for Oscar consideration instead….

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