Once again, ''The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King'' faced only Tolkien opposition at the box office. The trilogy's finale rang up an estimated $52.1 million over the weekend, plus another $14.6 million on Thursday, Christmas Day. The film passed the $200 million mark in 11 days, one day faster than ''The Two Towers'' did last year. Its domestic box office total now stands at $223.7 million, while it's earned just shy of $500 million worldwide.
Among the movies that opened Christmas Day, ''Cheaper by the Dozen'' did the best, apparently drawing every kid in America who wasn't already in the cast. It came in second at the box office with $28.2 million ($36.4 million since Thursday). ''Cold Mountain'' peaked at No. 3, with a Friday-to-Sunday total of $14.5 million ($19 million since Christmas). Ben Affleck's ''Paycheck'' earned just $13.9 million since Friday ($19.2 million over the four-day weekend). The sci-fi thriller finished in fifth place, behind the three-week-old ''Something's Gotta Give,'' whose weekend receipts actually rose 24 percent since last week to $14.2 million. The other Christmas Day wide release, the live-action ''Peter Pan,'' flew no higher than seventh place, with ticket buyers spending just $11.4 million since Friday. More kids than that will need to clap to keep Tinkerbell alive.