Japanese distributor Nippon Herald Films has sold a record number of advanced tickets to The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King - even though it does not open in Japan until Spring 2004.

13,645 advanced tickets were sold on August 2 in nine key cities for the third part of Peter Jackson's trilogy. This broke the one-day record sales in nine key cities previously set by Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets with 11,220 tickets.

The high number of ticket sales is largely attributed to a Nippon Herald publicity campaign which saw the company offer 1,000 fans who bought a ticket on August 2 to meet Elijah Wood at a private party in Tokyo sometime next year.

The large number of ticket sales is also something of a surprise. The Harry Potter films have both beaten The Rings films at the Japanese box office: the two Harry Potter films have taken a combined US$319m, while the Rings films have taken a cumulative US$139m.

In the third round, however, the odds may swing in The Rings' favour. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King is scheduled to be released in Japan in Spring 2004 while Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban is set to be released in June 2004.