'Lord' rules box office, but 'Ali' delivers wallop

— The first installment of the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy ruled theaters in its first week as "Ali" became the box-office champ of films opening on Christmas Day.

The adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" took in $47.2 million in its first three-day weekend. Opening last Wednesday, it grossed $94 million in its first full week.

Director Peter Jackson shot all three installments of the trilogy simultaneously, with part two scheduled for release around Christmas next year and part three in 2003.

"We have two more in the can just like this. You don't have to worry. They're there," said David Tuckerman, head of distribution for New Line, which is releasing the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. "The quality of acting is the same, the landscapes are the same. The big difference is there's more action in the next two."

"Ali," starring Will Smith as Muhammad Ali, raked in $10.2 million in its debut on Christmas. That beat the previous high for a Christmas debut, held by "Patch Adams" with $8.1 million.

"Muhammad Ali is probably the most known person around the world," said Jeff Blake, president of worldwide marketing and distribution for Sony, which released "Ali." "And the good news is, everybody's heard of Will Smith. They are a great one-two combination."

"Fellowship of the Ring" had the best three-day weekend opening ever in December, a mark set two weeks earlier by "Ocean's Eleven," which debuted with $38.1 million.

"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," which shattered most major records a month earlier, padded its haul by $10.7 million from Friday through Christmas Day. That put it a fraction ahead of "Shrek," making "Harry Potter" the year's top-grossing film at $267.8 million and counting.

With $90.3 million in its first weekend, "Harry Potter" had the best three-day premiere ever.

The motion picture industry also had a record revenue year, topping the $8 billion mark for the first time.

Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations, estimated that ticket sales for 2001 will have totaled $8.35 billion through next Monday.

The top 10 movies at North American theaters Friday through Tuesday:

1. "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring"

2. "Ocean's Eleven"

3. "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius"

4. "Vanilla Sky"

5. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

6. "Ali"

7. "How High"

8. "The Majestic"

9. "Not Another Teen Movie"

10. "Monsters Inc."

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