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The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

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Didn't see a thread for this and thought these films deserved a spot here!

 

After decades of false starts and various names attached to the project, the highly believed "unfilmable" Lord of the Rings trilogy that we got today began production in 1997. While this thread is specifically about the box office of the films, if you are unaware and have some spare time, reading about the actual development/production of this trilogy is an extremely fun and detailed read for film fans, and I'd highly recommend checking it out. Here's a good starting point.

 

The first film, The Fellowship of the Ring, was released on December 19th, 2001 domestically. It's opening Wednesday gross earned $18.21 million, leading to a $47.21 million opening weekend and a 5-day opening total of $75.13 million. The film excelled throughout the remainder of Christmas/New Year holidays, dropping only 18% in it's second weekend, scoring $174.1 million by New Years Day, and $205.5 million by the end of the January 4-6th weekend. Despite an already great total, the film was in no hurry to slow down. The film had fantastic legs throughout the cold, early months of 2002, even playing well into the spring months of March/April. The film was still playing in 1,120 theaters on Easter weekend (March 29 - 31, 2002) and made $2.38 million that weekend. After that, the film continued it's run on a lower scale all the way up until August of 2002, closing with $313,364,114 domestically by the end of it's run - placing 2nd place in both domestic and worldwide box office rankings for 2001, only beaten by Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone on both fronts. 

 

The second film, The Two Towers, released on December 18th, 2002. Making $26 million on it's opening Wednesday, en route to $62 million first weekend and a $102 million 5-day total, the sequel was in a position to ramp up the gross of the first film. The film hit $200 million at the end of it's second weekend, and had $261 million by the end of it's third weekend, right after New Years. Unlike most sequels, The Two Towers didn't just open big and sputter out, but maintained the legs of the first film fairly well. It crossed $300 million by MLK Weekend, and stayed in over 1000 theaters up through Valentines Day/President's Day weekend in 2003 ($3 million from 1,422 locations) and had $325 million in the bag at that point, topping the first film's gross. The film's last weekend at $1 million+ gross was March 14-16, where it had a $333 million total. The film continued to play on throughout the spring/summer to a $339,789,881 total, placing it 2nd for the year behind Spider-Man domestically, but handily topped it on worldwide numbers, ranking #1 with $936,689,735.

 

The final film, Return of the King, was released on December 17th, 2003. The finale factor was strong with this one, with an opening of $34.45 million on Wednesday, leading to a $72.6 million opening weekend and $124.1 million 5-day total. Despite being a "grand finale" of sorts, the film only dropped 30% in the second weekend, with bringing in over $50 million and a post-Christmas total of $222 million. It held on strong with holiday weekdays and had amassed $290 million by the weekend following New Years. While the film's legs weren't quite as amazing as it's predecessors, it still held on extremely strong, even by the standard then. Making $329 million by the end of MLK Weekend and $357 million by Valentines/Presidents Day weekend. The film had one last major push after sweeping the Oscars, expanding 791 theaters (1,903 total) on March 5th, for a weekend of $3 million and a $368 million total. Return of the King went on to be the highest grossing film in the trilogy with $377,027,325 domestically, the highest that year. In addition to the stellar domestic gross, the film managed a staggering $763,654,686 in international numbers, leading to a massive $1,140,682,011 total. The second film to ever hit $1 billion in global earnings, right after Titanic. 

 

The films were all met with critical and social praise, and their overseas earnings are arguably even more impressive than the domestic grosses. That said, one thing that has always fascinated me about the runs of this trilogy is that they completely bucked the trend of "high profile frontloaded" releases. The first film had a very strong opening week, and word of mouth and anticipation led it to a shelf-life well beyond the holiday season it opened in. The second film, while definitely increasing in opening revenue/total gross, still didn't have an immediate massive increase. It had a very solid $15 million gain on the first film's opening weekend (though the higher Wed/Thurs totals likely do make up for a good bit of that), but still went on to have prolonged interest over the coming months. Even the final film, Return of the King, managed a 5x multi from it's opening weekend, in a year where X-Men 2 and The Matrix sequels were doing the whole, "bombastic opening/frontloaded" thing. No film in this trilogy has less than a 5x multi.  The global box office results could probably have an entire thread to themselves, as this movie was one of several in the 2000s that really started changing the landscape of international earnings for films, making bank in markets thought unprofitable before. 

 

If I missed anything, or anyone has additional information, feel free to add!  

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17 minutes ago, Mango said:

Even the final film, Return of the King, managed a 5x multi from it's opening weekend, in a year where X-Men 2 and The Matrix sequels were doing the whole, "bombastic opening/frontloaded" thing.

A bit like for some spider man release of that era, Return of the Kings opened a wednesday, i.e it's weekend numbers is not only true weekend numbers without thursday previews added to them, but it burned 51.47 millions in demand before starting it's first weekend, combined to the holiday release helping the legs quite alot. Maybe today the whole 124 millions it did until is first sunday would be called it's opening weekend for a 3.03 multiplier.

 

I think people prefer using first 7 days of business versus other title first 7 days to compare legs for that type of title (where the Lords of The Rings still do well, but less specially)

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6 minutes ago, Barnack said:

A bit like for some spider man release of that era, Return of the Kings opened a wednesday, i.e it's weekend numbers is not only true weekend numbers without thursday previews added to them, but it burned 51.47 millions in demand before starting it's first weekend, combined to the holiday release helping the legs quite alot. Maybe today the whole 124 millions it did until is first sunday would be called it's opening weekend for a 3.03 multiplier.

 

I think people prefer using first 7 days of business versus other title first 7 days to compare legs for that type of title (where the Lords of The Rings still do well, but less specially)

 

I agree for sure. The mid-week openings definitely contributed to the fantastic multipliers for the films. Though I will say the percent of the total gross each film managed to make after the holidays (post-New Years) is still really impressive. I imagine Oscar hype and the later theater count boosts played a big part in that as well. Definitely understandable why the Pre-Christmas slot became the go-to for big fantasy blockbusters like Avatar and the Star Wars sequel trilogy after the LotR trilogy (and Titanic, for that matter).

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Strange that these feel so outdated now. Peter Jackson is basically a nobody, as are near all of the actors. For winning 11 Academy awards and ending as the #2 highest grossing film ever, ROTK and LOTR in general seem to have left almost no pop culture footprint whatsoever aside from possibly Gollum. Like so many things from the early 2000s that dominated pop-culture, the legacy of series just feels so overwhelmed by other series that came not too far after it.

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6 hours ago, excel1 said:

LOTR in general seem to have left almost no pop culture footprint whatsoever aside from possibly Gollum. 

I imagine you mean by LOTR in general the movies, because the pop culture footprint is ridiculously giant.

 

I think Gandalf, the eye that watch, the battle of helm's deep, the ring to rule them all and many other elements are now part of pop culture and the movies helped popularise them, many LOTR elements the way they presented Dwarfs, Halfling/Hobbits, Elves, Orcs and so on were already so much into our pop-culture before the movies because AD&D, Warhammer-warcraft used them and became popular that it was hard for the movies to put them even more on the map, but I imagine that they did.

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On 3/28/2021 at 6:00 PM, excel1 said:

Strange that these feel so outdated now. Peter Jackson is basically a nobody, as are near all of the actors. For winning 11 Academy awards and ending as the #2 highest grossing film ever, ROTK and LOTR in general seem to have left almost no pop culture footprint whatsoever aside from possibly Gollum. Like so many things from the early 2000s that dominated pop-culture, the legacy of series just feels so overwhelmed by other series that came not too far after it.

Yeah, no. LOTR has had quite a big pop culture footprint, it's just that it's been nearly 20 years since the trilogy was over. Obviously the films couldn't be as influential as the books but compared to most blockbusters they're quite remembered. 

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On 3/28/2021 at 6:00 PM, excel1 said:

Strange that these feel so outdated now. Peter Jackson is basically a nobody, as are near all of the actors. For winning 11 Academy awards and ending as the #2 highest grossing film ever, ROTK and LOTR in general seem to have left almost no pop culture footprint whatsoever aside from possibly Gollum. Like so many things from the early 2000s that dominated pop-culture, the legacy of series just feels so overwhelmed by other series that came not too far after it.

 

QFT 

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It's interesting that people thought LOTR would sink New Line at the line but the film that actually ended up sinking them was The Golden Compass, another fantasy film. 

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On 3/28/2021 at 6:00 PM, excel1 said:

Strange that these feel so outdated now. Peter Jackson is basically a nobody, as are near all of the actors. For winning 11 Academy awards and ending as the #2 highest grossing film ever, ROTK and LOTR in general seem to have left almost no pop culture footprint whatsoever aside from possibly Gollum. Like so many things from the early 2000s that dominated pop-culture, the legacy of series just feels so overwhelmed by other series that came not too far after it.

 

The hell? Lmao. They’re literally regarded as some of the best movies ever made and the trilogy is constantly polled as a top tier masterpiece. Gollum, Gandalf, and jokes about Frodo and Sam still resonate in multiple references today. 

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The movies were forgotten so much and left no one wanting anything more concerning the world of LOTR that all Amazon did was commit ONE BILLION DOLLARS for a project in an effort to recreate that magic.

 

Yep.  No lasting cultural legacy what-so-ever.

Edited by Porthos
clarified my snark ever so slightly
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What an absolutely beautiful trilogy this was. I had some quibbles with the adaptations of certain things but in a broad sense these are such great films.

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I stanned harder for these films circa 2001-2006 more than any in my life probably. They're obviously not on OT SW level of cultural cache or anything, but I think their impact is still felt.

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On 3/29/2021 at 1:00 AM, excel1 said:

Strange that these feel so outdated now. Peter Jackson is basically a nobody, as are near all of the actors. For winning 11 Academy awards and ending as the #2 highest grossing film ever, ROTK and LOTR in general seem to have left almost no pop culture footprint whatsoever aside from possibly Gollum. Like so many things from the early 2000s that dominated pop-culture, the legacy of series just feels so overwhelmed by other series that came not too far after it.

 

Well, they 're the reason those crappy CGI Hobbit films made another 3 billion dollars, they 're the reason the new Amazon show will cost as much as a Jeff Bezos spaceship, they 're might be the only blockbusters this young century that are already considered canonical classics. 

 

Can't wait for the original Matrix to become culturally insignificant if the new movie doesn't gross a billion and spin-off 3 HBOmax shows.

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who associated with these films is still any sort of box office draw? "My precious!" is easily the most lasting cultural bit from these films.

Edited by excel1
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19 hours ago, excel1 said:

who associated with these films is still any sort of box office draw? "My precious!" is easily the most lasting cultural bit from these films.

A bit like the first spider man trilogy of that time, very little (all of Potter 8 movies left Watson of it all) and if Dept is done we could had the Pirates, the 17 Saw movie.

 

They were that first bunch indicating that shift from draw to IPs draw.

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