'Fellowship' rings up No. 1 opening at box-office

— Hobbits were the lords of the box office as the opening chapter of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic fantasy took in $45.3 million Friday to Sunday for an easy No. 1 debut.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" � which opened Wednesday � also grossed nearly $28 million in its first two days. The film's five-day total was $73.1 million in the United States and Canada, according to studio estimates Sunday.

The saga of Middle-earth and a quest to destroy a ring of power that threatens all creation should top $100 million when it finishes its first week on Christmas Day, said David Tuckerman, head of distribution for New Line Cinema, which released the film.

The movie also raked in $60 million in its first five days in 15 other countries.

Critics have raved about "Lord of the Rings," and the movie has caught strong buzz for a best-picture nomination and other Oscar attention.

"Ocean's Eleven" remained the No. 2 movie for a second straight weekend, grossing $14.6 million. The animated family adventure "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" opened in third place with $14 million.

"Vanilla Sky," last weekend's No. 1 film, fell to fourth place with $12.1 million.

"How High," with rappers Method Man and Redman as potheads at Harvard, debuted at No. 5 with $7.6 million.

Two other new films had weak openings. "The Majestic," starring Jim Carrey as a blacklisted, amnesiac screenwriter in the 1950s, was No. 8 with $5 million.

Tim Allen's "Joe Somebody," about a meek tech geek challenged by the office bully, debuted in ninth place with $3.7 million.

In limited release, Ron Howard's "A Beautiful Mind" had a strong debut, grossing $365,000 in 11 theaters for a $33,182 average. Starring Russell Crowe as a schizophrenic math genius, the movie expands to about 500 theaters Christmas Day.

Studios expect big business at theaters for the coming week once people finish last-minute shopping and other Christmas preoccupations. That bodes especially well for "Lord of the Rings" and family films such as "Jimmy Neutron" and "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.:

1. "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring," $45.3 million.

2. "Ocean's Eleven," $14.6 million.

3. "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius," $14 million.

4. "Vanilla Sky," $12.1 million.

5. "How High," $7.6 million.

6. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," $6.2 million.

7. "Not Another Teen Movie," $5.5 million.

8. "The Majestic," $5 million.

9. "Joe Somebody," $3.7 million

10. "Monsters, Inc.," $3.5 million.

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