Rings Smash Aussie Box Office - LOTR Hits it BIG!!!

Takings for Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring soared above the previous first-day record held by 1999's Star Wars Episode One ($3.1 million) and the best day of trading held by Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone ($3.2 million).

Australians flocked to the more than 400 prints of The Fellowship of the Ring debuting yesterday at 232 cinemas nationwide in numbers that its sole Australian distributor Roadshow Film Distributors has described as "just absolutely exceptional".

"It's out of this world," Roadshow Film Distributors chairman Ian Sands told AAP. "It was an all-time (Australian) cinema record. We are hearing everyone loves it."

A final tally today put the film's Australian takings at $5,008,712. The figure puts Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in prime position to comprehensively beat the record for overall Australian takings, held by Titanic at over $61 million.

The Fellowship of the Ring has raked in more than $89.2 million in the United States alone since its release last Wednesday, according to studio estimates.

The movie is the first installment of a $720 million trilogy based on the works of JRR Tolkien, directed by New Zealander Peter Jackson and staring Sir Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, Viggo Mortensen and Cate Blanchett, among others.

The fantasy saga tells the story of young hobbit Frodo Baggins' trek to Mount Doom to destroy an evil ring.

The final two instalments of the trilogy have been filmed and are now in their post-production stages. The saga's second chapter, Two Towers , is scheduled for release next Christmas while the third instalment, Return of the King, will debut over Christmas 2003.

Greg Rule

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