After just threeweekends The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King is closing in on $400m at theinternational box office and has the $1bn worldwide mark firmly within itssights.

Latest figuresfrom New Line International reveal the fantasy finale grossed $72.6m from 8,826screens in 45 territories from Thursday-Sunday (Jan 1-4) to raise itsinternational running total to $390.4m.

This combineswith the $290.4m domestic gross for a global running total of $680.8m.

Key drivers inthe weekend performance were the UK, where Return Of The King added $13.7m from 1,299 screens for astaggering $72.2m running total, and Germany, where it grossed $10.6m from1,337 for $64.6m.

In France thefilm added $5.4m from 972 for $39.1m, while Spain added the same amount from512 for a terrific $29.8m and South Korea grossed $3.8m from 330 for $22.6m.

Elsewhere, ReturnOf The King added $5.6mfrom 453 in Australia for $19.3m, $2m from 550 in Mexico for $12.1m and $3mfrom 169 in Sweden for $14.7m.

It is due toopen in Japan on Feb 14 in what should be a lucrative release considering Japanwas the second biggest international market for The Two Towers behind the UK on $65m.

The Fellowship Of The Ring opened in 2001 and went on to gross $865m worldwide. The Two Towers wasreleased a year later and finished on $921m.

The hit comedy Elf added $1.2m in its sixth weekend in the UK, dropping24% for a $27.1m running total there as the film elevated its internationalcumulative score to $43m.