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'Lord' Reigns Over Box Office Again

The second "Lord of the Rings" movie held onto the top place again, taking in nearly $26 million. It was its third weekend in that spot.

"Catch Me If You Can" finished in second place, raking in $21.3 million, while "Two Weeks Notice" earned $11.6 million and "Maid in Manhattan" took the Number 4 spot, taking in $9 million at the box office this weekend, reports The Early Show entertainment contributor Jess Cagle.

In its first weekend of wide release after debuting in a handful of theaters last month, Jack Nicholson's acclaimed black comedy "About Schmidt" climbed to No. 5 with $8.75 million. Nicholson plays a retired insurance actuary reassessing his life after his wife dies.

Also expanding to more theaters was the musical "Chicago," with Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere, which came in at No. 9 with $5 million.

Playing in relatively narrow release at 816 theaters, "About Schmidt" averaged a healthy $10,723, while "Chicago" averaged $16,500 in 304 theaters. "The Two Towers" averaged $7,082 in 3,622 theaters, while "Catch Me If You Can" averaged $6,719 in 3,170 theaters.

"The Two Towers" already has passed the total gross of "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," which came out a month earlier and is at $252 million. And "Two Towers" is on track to pass the $310 million gross of "Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones" to become last year's second-biggest hit after "Spider-Man," which took in $406 million. It also will pass the $313 million total of its predecessor, 2001's "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring."

Worldwide, "The Two Towers" has hit $560 million, and distributor New Line hopes it will top $1 billion and become the No. 2 film behind "Titanic" at $1.8 billion.

"The Two Towers" picks up right where "Fellowship of the Ring" left off and leaves viewers hanging, awaiting the conclusion next December with "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King."

"This is a movie without a beginning and an end. It's not a sequel but a continuation of a story," said David Tuckerman, New Line head of distribution. "If you liked the first one, if you cared about the first one, if you found anything positive in the first one, you want to see the second."

Here are the numbers according to

  1. "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers," $25.65 million.
  2. "Catch Me If You Can," $21.3 million.
  3. "Two Weeks Notice," $11.6 million.
  4. "Maid in Manhattan," $9 million.
  5. "About Schmidt," $8.75 million.
  6. "Gangs of New York," $7.4 million.
  7. "Drumline," $5.6 million.
  8. "The Wild Thornberrys Movie," $5.5 million.
  9. "Chicago," $5 million.
  10. "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," $4.5 million.

Several films that opened over the holidays to qualify for the Academy Awards continued to do well in limited release. "The Hours," a Virginia Woolf-related drama starring Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman and Julianne Moore, grossed $326,000 in 11 theaters for a $29,636 average. Spike Lee's "The 25th Hour," starring Edward Norton as a drug dealer on his last day of freedom before going to prison, earned $131,000 at five theaters for a $26,281 average.

The nominations won't be announced until Tuesday, Feb. 11, and the Academy Awards won't be handed out until Sunday, March 23. But here are Cagle's early Oscar picks for best movies, best actor and best actress with his comments.

For Best Picture, he predicts the following nominees:

  • About Schmidt" - Only in a few theaters so far, but it's doing well. And the Los Angeles critics named it Best Picture.
  • Adaptation" - Very quirky comedy from the guys who did "Being John Malkovich," with Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep. It's not the kind of thing that usually gets nominated but may have a chance. It got six Golden Globe nominations.
  • "Chicago" - Got great reviews. It's the one movie on the list that everybody seems to like. It has a very good chance of winning.
  • "The Hours" - Really elegant drama and anything with Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore and Nicole Kidman is kind of a shoo-in.
  • "Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers" - Last year's "Lord of the Rings" got nominated. A lot of people consider this one even better, so it'll probably get in.

There are also some movies that may get nominated like "Gangs of New York," "The Pianist," "Road to Perdition," "Far from Heaven" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding," and "Antwone Fisher" says Cagle.

Last year's Hollywood race was disgusting by Hollywood standards, but this year we will not see a lot of mudslinging, says Cagle. His bet is that Dreamworks and Miramax will fight for "Road to Perdition" and "Gangs Of New York" respectively.

A film that he says may be overlooked is "The Good Girl," a little independent movie with Jennifer Aniston.

For Best Actor, his picks are:

  • Adrien Brody: "The Pianist"
  • Michael Caine: "The Quiet American"
  • Daniel Day Lewis "Gangs Of New York"
  • Leonardo DiCaprio: "Catch Me If You Can"
  • Jack Nicholson: "About Schmidt"

"Jack Nicholson will win," says Cagle. Last year, Denzel Washington won this category. This year, he could get a supporting actor nomination for "Antwone Fisher," a movie he also directed. If the movie gains some momentum, he could end up with a directing nomination as well.

Best Actress:

  • Nicole Kidman: "The Hours"
  • Diane Lane: "Unfaithful"
  • Julianne Moore: "Far From Heaven"
  • Meryl Streep: "The Hours"
  • Renee Zellwegger: "Chicago"

Cagle says it is possible Catherine Zeta-Jones could get the award for "Chicago", but she may end up in a supporting actress category. Both Meryl Streep and Diane Lane both deserve it, he says, though Streep may have a leg up because she gives great performances in both "The Hours" and in "Adaptation."

The Supporting Actor race is the most interesting according to Cagle because Paul Newman in "Road to Perdition," Dennis Quaid in "Far From Heaven," and Chris Cooper in "Adaptation" gave unbelievably fine performances.