Comedies are enjoying a purple patch at the US box office these days so it was little wonder that Universal's Along Came Polly dethroned The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

New Line's fantasy epic is fading fast in its fifth week but that still shouldn't diminish Polly's achievement. It opened top on $32.5m over the four-day Martin Luther King Day holiday, the second best for the period just behind Sony's Black Hawk Down, which took $33.6m in 2001.

Universal's latest release scored the biggest ever comedy opening in January, a seemingly innocuous accolade that the studio's marketing mavens should have little trouble in exploiting seeing as they were probably the ones who announced it. Not the recipient of particularly favourable reviews, the Jersey Films production nonetheless stars the highly bankable pairing of Ben Stiller as a risk assessor and Jennifer Aniston as the woman he falls for against all the odds. John Hamburg, a regular Stiller collaborator who wrote the screenplays for Meet The Parents and Zoolander, wrote and directed the film.

Sony's romantic comedy Something's Gotta Give passed $100m in its sixth week as it added $6.7m for a $101.7m cumulative score. Warner Bros' The Last Samurai also did it after a $3.7m weekend gross boosted its total to $102.6m.

Opening in 11th place was Disney's Teacher's Pet, which took $3.6m and averaged an anaemic $1,777 from 2,027 sites despite strong reviews. Timothy Bjorklund's animated romp features the vocal talents of Nathan Lane, Kelsey Grammar and Megan Mullally, among others.