There was something ''Fish''-y at the box office this weekend. The Tim Burton drama surprised many by beating out the newest ''LOTR'' flick

By Dave Karger
January 09, 2004 at 05:00 AM EST
Big Fish: Zade Rosethal

Talk about living up to your name. In a surprise finish, ”Big Fish” capitalized on a larger-than-expected ”Lord of the Rings” drop to become the big fish at the box office this weekend. In its first weekend of wide release, Tim Burton’s Golden Globe-nominated drama earned $14.5 million, according to studio estimates. Added to its few weeks in limited release, “Big Fish” has now grossed $24.1 million.

Meanwhile, “The Return of the King” slipped 50 percent in its fourth weekend to $14.1 million, missing out on becoming the first film since “Fellowship of the Ring” to log four consecutive weeks at No. 1. But don’t feel bad for those hobbits: With $312.2 million domestically and almost $870 worldwide, the final “Lord of the Rings” now stands as the No. 6 all-time worldwide grosser and the No. 13 all-time domestic grosser. Plus, it picked up Best Picture, Director, Ensemble, and Score awards at this weekend’s Critics’ Choice awards, which will be just the beginning of its awards haul over the next six weeks.

Third place went to Steve Martin’s hit comedy “Cheaper by the Dozen,” which dropped 45 percent to $12 million, becoming the 26th film released in 2003 to cross $100 million in box office (it’s now earned $101.4 million). Rounding out the top five were “Something’s Gotta Give” with $8.2 million and “Cold Mountain” with $7.9 million.

That means the weekend’s two new wide releases had to settle with openings outside the top five. Eddie Griffin’s comedy “My Baby’s Daddy” premiered with a strong $7.8 million in only around 1,450 theaters. But Mandy Moore’s comedy “Chasing Liberty” tanked with only $6 million despite a wide 2,400-theater opening. Who’d have thought Moore would have such a hard time chasing a double-digit debut?