Columbia's Big Fishclaimed top spot on an estimated $14.5m following wide expansion at theweekend, although the amount raised eyebrows among executives at rival studioswho have disputed the gross.
Final figures will berevealed on Monday (12) and it remains to be seen whether New Line's ReturnOf The King was indeed shunted into second place on $14.1m or still rulesthem all in the number one spot.
Either way, the concludingepisode in Peter Jackson's Tolkien adaptation maintained momentum to pass $300mon Friday and has a $312.2m running total going into its fourth week.
Big Fish, Tim Burton's acclaimed father-son drama, expandedfrom 125 to 2,406 theatres in its sixth week and has amassed $24.1m to date.Ewan McGregor, Albert Finney and Billy Crudup star.
Fox's comedy Cheaper ByThe Dozen slipped one place to third as it added $12 for $101.4m in itsthird week, while Columbia's romantic comedy and awards contender Something'sGotta Give fell one to fourth, adding $8.2m in its fifth week for $92.9m.
Miramax's American Civil Wardrama Cold Mountain dropped one to fifth on $7.9m for an impressive$55.4m in its third week, and the mini-major also opened the comedy MyBaby's Daddy in sixth place on $7.8m.
Directed by Cheryl Dunye,the story centres on three erstwhile bachelors who must come to terms withfatherhood. Anthony Anderson, Eddie Griffin and Michael Imperioli star and thefilm received terrible reviews, averaging $5,417 from 1,447.
Warner Bros opened theromantic comedy Chasing Liberty in seventh on $6m, averaging $2,506 from 2,400 sites. Andy Cadiff's film failed to inspire the critics and stars MandyMoore as the President's headstrong daughter who absconds to Europe.
The studio's Japan-set dramaThe Last Samurai is on the cusp of $100m following a $4.5m haul in itssixth week that raised the total to $97.2m.
This mirrors a strong performance for the film outside ofthe US, built on an exceptional Japanese run, which is expected to take it past$100m at the international box office on Monday.
Overall box office rose 5% from the same period last year asthe top 12 films took $92.5m.
Next weekend's releases include the Universal comedy AlongCame Polly, starring Ben Stiller and Jennifer Aniston; Paramount's highschool comedy The Perfect Score, starring Scarlett Johansson and ErikaChristensen; Buena Vista's animated title Teacher's Pet, starring thevoice talents of Nathan Lane and Shaun Flemming; and Warner Bros' motorcycleracing thriller Torque, which stars Ice Cube and Jay Hernandez.
Estimated Top Ten US Jan 9-11 2004
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimatedweekend gross/Estimated total to date
1 (12) Big Fish (Columbia)CTFDI $14.5m $24.1m
2 (1) The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King (New Line) NLI$14.1m $312.2m
3 (2) Cheaper By The Dozen (Fox) Fox Int'l $12m $101.4m
4 (3) Something's Gotta Give (Columbia) CTFDI/Warner Bros Int'l $8.2m$92.9m
5 (4) Cold Mountain (Miramax) Miramax Int'l $7.9m $55.4m
6 (-) My Baby's Daddy (Miramax) Miramax Int'l/BVI $7.8m -
7 (-) Chasing Liberty (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Int'l $6m -
8 (5) Paycheck (Paramount) UIP $5.2m $46.5m
9 (8) The Last Samurai (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Int'l $4.5m $97.2m
10 (7) MonaLisa Smile (Columbia/Revolution) CTFDI $4.5m $57m