Finally, after weeks of anticipation, The Lord Of The Rings:The Return Of The Kingofficially passed $1bn in worldwide ticket sales at the weekend.

New Line International'spicture grossed $13.9m from 3,655 screens in 60 markets to raise its internationalrunning total to $644.3m. Added to the weekend's $2.8m US gross for a $361.1mdomestic cumulative total, the official worldwide gross as of Feb 23 stands at$1,005,380,412.

The key driver in weekend business was the second weekend inJapan, where The Return Of The King fell 32% on $9.2m from 737 screens over three days, raisingthe running total there to $31.8m. New Line International said the US$ amounthas already surpassed the final total of The Two Towers.

The Return Of The King has grossed more than The Two Towers in 56 of its 60 active markets.

"It's a tremendous achievement and very gratifying to see thefinal movie in the trilogy crowned as the second highest grossing movie of alltime," Rolf Mittweg, president and chief operating officer of worldwidedistribution and marketing at New Line, told The picture wasconfirmed last week as the second biggest grossing release ever behind Titanic's $1.8bn.

Mittweg said hewas very satisfied with results from Japan, adding it was expected to stabiliseahead of school holidays in March and could expect a box office boost should TheReturn Of The King winAcademy Awards as expected on Sunday (29).