The Return of the King raked in a massive $250.1 million on 14,608 screens worldwide from Wednesday to Sunday, according to distributor New Line. That sets a new record for a five-day worldwide opening, handily eclipsing former title holder The Matrix Revolutions' $202.8 million, which bowed practically everywhere in the world (109 markets) to get that high and inch past prior record breaker The Two Towers' $201.8 million.
To put its debut into further perspective, after just five days, Return of the King already ranks as the 171st highest grossing picture worldwide of all time. The haul represents 28.8% of The Fellowship of the Ring's $867.7 million worldwide total and 27.0% of Two Towers' $924.8 million. All told, the franchise's lifetime box office surpassed $2 billion.
Overseas alone, the end of Frodo's journey conquered the 28 territories it entered with a whopping $125.9 million on 7,403 screens in its first five days. By comparison, Two Towers pulled in $99.8 million out of the gate in 27 markets.
Return of the King shattered the opening day and weekend records in the United Kingdom ($25.9 million on 1,299 screens in five days), Germany ($22.6 million on 1,337), Spain ($10.0 million on 512), Sweden ($4.7 million on 169), Denmark ($3.9 million on 120) and Switzerland ($2.7 million on 134). In France, it nabbed the top honors for 2003, earning $14 million in five days on 975 screens. In New Zealand (a.k.a. Middle-earth), it notched not only opening day and weekend records, but also the biggest single day, Friday, Saturday and Sunday ever, reaching $1.7 million in four days on 114 screens. It also broke opening day records in Austria, Belgium, Chile, Finland, Greece, Holland, Mexico, Norway, Puerto Rico, and Switzerland.
Domestically, The Lord of the Rings finale attracted $124.1 million on 7,205 screens at 3,703 theaters since Wednesday, ranking as the third-biggest opening 5-day haul ever after The Matrix Reloaded's $144.4 million and Spider-Man's $135.8 million. Return of the King bested Two Towers' $102 million five-day start by 21.7% and The Fellowship of the Ring's $75.1 million by 65.2%.
For the weekend, Return of the King rang up $72.6 million, claiming the December opening weekend record from Two Towers' $62.0 million just as Two Towers took the title from Fellowship of the Ring's $47.2 million. Return stands as the seventh biggest opening of all time, just behind another New Line release Austin Powers in Goldmember's $73.1 million, and the third best of the year behind Matrix Reloaded's $91.8 million and X2: X-Men United's $85.6 million.
Breaking down the five days, Return of the King scored the biggest Wednesday ever with $34.5 million. It fell 50.6% on Thursday to $17.0 million, compared to Two Towers' and Fellowship's 47% drops on the same day. Return had a smaller increase on Friday, up 28.2% to $21.8 million while Two Towers and Fellowship spiked 38.5% and 46.7% respectively.
On Saturday, Return blazed past the $100 million mark, becoming the fourth fastest picture to reach that milestone behind Spider-Man, Matrix Reloaded and Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. Return's bump-up on Saturday was 26% to $27.5 million, improving upon Two Towers' 18.4% and Fellowship's 19.9% increases. On Sunday, Return had a slightly bigger dip, down 15.2% to $23.3 million while Two Towers slipped 12% and Fellowship 6.7%.
The one year separation between each Rings installment turned out to be a superb strategy—allowing enough time for each movie to play out fully in theaters, to expand the audience with two DVD releases and then to have the cable debut right when the new movies were debuting. In addition, it gave fans some time away from the series, making each release more of an event, unlike what happened with The Matrix sequels' six month window.
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