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Friday, 21 December, 2001, 08:56 GMT
Tolkien rings at box office tills
The Fellowship of the Ring
The film is introducing Tolkien to new fans
The power of the ring is proving powerful as cinema-goers poured into theatres on the opening day of The Lord of the Rings film.

The fantasy epic took $18.2m (12.2m) in the US on Wednesday, making it the third biggest mid-week opener in history.

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace grossed $28.5m in 1999 while Jurassic Park III reached 19m.


There weren't that many Tolkienites to make it to $18m

New Line executive
It has been recorded as having the most takings ever for any day in December.

But Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, as it is known in the US, took more on its opening day.

It opened on a Friday and took an estimated $31.6m (19.6m).

Peter Jackson directed all three parts of The Lord of the Rings adaptation at once.

But he has admitted that he has strayed from the original plot for the second and third films, risking the wrath of die-hard Tolkien fans.

Ambitious

The New Zealander expects some characters to be given expanded roles, such as Rohan King Theoden and his nephew Eomer.

Sean Astin and Elijah Wood
Sean Astin and Elijah Wood play hobbits Sam and Frodo
The Fellowship of the Rings saw the invention of the enemy warrior Lurtz.

It was an ambitious project which appears to have paid off as critics and Tolkien fans rave about the first instalment, Fellowship of the Ring.

And its first box office figures are testament to the potential box office receipts the film could achieve.

"For a movie with a three-hour running time opening in the middle of the week, this has to be considered a great success for New Line," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations.

Birthplace

"If these numbers are any indication of the interest of the movie-going public, they're going to have a big hit on their hands this weekend."

Fellowship of the Ring also opened on Wednesday in 13 other countries, where it took some $11.5m (7.9m).

Tolkien's birthplace, South Africa, recorded a single-day record, according to distributor's New Line Cinema.

The Lord of the Rings tells the story of how the hobbit Frodo seeks to destroy a magic and much sought-after ring.

Loyal fans

He is aided on his mission by elves, humans, and dwarfs, and hindered by goblins - known as orcs - dark sorcerers and a host of terrifying beasts that sprang from Tolkien's imagination.

The Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings contains dark elements
The film stars UK actor Sir Ian McKellen as the wizard Gandalf and Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins.

New Line is attributing part of the film's initial success to the loyal Tolkien fan base - but also the glowing reviews.

"There weren't that many Tolkienites to make it to $18m," said New Line distribution president David Tuckerman.

"We've hit America."

 VOTE RESULTS
Which film is better?

Fellowship of the Ring
 84.52% 

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
 15.48% 

5123 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

19 Dec 01 | Reviews
The Lord of the Rings: Your views
15 May 01 | Film
Cannes preview for Rings
02 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Hobbit soldiers 'not exploited'
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