After just a fortnight intheatres, New Line's The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King already ranks as the fifth most successful globalrelease of 2003 after The Matrix Reloaded, Finding Nemo, PiratesOf The Caribbean and its immediate predecessor The Two Towers. It will only be a matter of days before it ranks fourth.

Second weekend estimates show The Return Of The Kingraising its international running total to $268.4m from 38 territories, andtaking another $223.7m from North American circuits.

With a cumulative globalgross of $492.1m, Peter Jackson'strilogy finale is tracking 27% ahead of The Two Towers by the comparable stage of release twelve monthsago. It also means that the film has leapfrogged Bruce Almighty in the global box office rankings for 2003 and is now fast bearing down on the The Two Towers' calendar year total of $518m.

InNorth America, The Return Of The King became the second fastest film of all time to pass $200m, crossing thatmilestone on its 11th day (Dec 27) on release. The film trails only Spider-Man, which accomplished the feat over nine days in May2002.

Theconcluding episode in JRR Tolkien's saga dropped 29% in its second domesticweekend, staying top with a $51.2m Friday-Sunday gross and an average of $13,833from each of the 3,703 North American theatres playing the blockbuster.

Domestically,studio sources said the film is tracking 12% ahead of The Two Towers at the comparable stage in December 2002 - although that film only slipped 21%in its second weekend on domestic release.

(For more on the Christmas box office across North Americaclick on the left bar box office story).