Lord of Rings: Fellowship of the Ring finished number one at the U.S. domestic box office for the third week in a row, earning some $23 million and pushing its cumulative total past $200 million in just 19 days.  The Peter Jackson-directed fantasy epic also took the 'Best Picture' Award at the first annual American Film Institute Awards Show.  While this doesn't guarantee even an Oscar nomination, winning the first of these annual award derbies (the Golden Globes and Oscars will follow) certainly indicates that the film is in line for a number of Academy Award nominations.  Many box office prognosticators are estimating that by the time the Oscar nominations are announced, LOTR will have made its way into the top 10 list of all-time box office champions.  For retailers the significance of a number of Academy Award nominations means that the film will continue to play in a number of theaters through March and attract a wider audience.


A survey of retailers by ICv2 indicated that most dealers felt that LOTR was the best merchandising bet among this winter's mega-releases (see 'Retailers Wary of Harry').  The epic fantasy film has certainly lived up to box office expectations and many of the various merchandise tie-ins from toys to a wide array of games are available to tempt those who want to extend the LOTR experience beyond the film's 3-hour running time.  For a very positive fan review of the unjustly neglected Topps LOTR trading cards check out Figures.com. Movie merchandise remains one of the most difficult categories for retailers to exploit, but if anything is clear in this very murky area, it is that the films that do best are groundbreaking, genre-establishing movies like the original Star Wars trilogy or Tim Burton's initial Batman film.