LOS ANGELES (AP) – Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” took in $14.5 million to slip past “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” as the No. 1 weekend movie, according to studio estimates Sunday.

“The Return of the King,” the top film the previous three weekends, came in at $14.1 million, pushing its domestic total to $312.2 million.

“This is very rare to have a photo finish for the No. 1 spot,” said Paul Dergarabedian, president of box-office tracker Exhibitor Relations. He predicted that the movies would stay in the same order on Monday.

Other studios were tracking Sony’s “Big Fish” and New Line’s “Return of the King” at slightly lower weekend grosses. Some had “Big Fish” in first place and some had “Return of the King” as No. 1.

This was the first weekend in wide release for “Big Fish,” which stars Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor in the fanciful adventures of a man who tells larger-than-life tales. The film opened in late December in a handful of theaters for Academy Awards consideration.

The serial-killer drama “Monster,” which has earned Academy Award buzz for star Charlize Theron, did well expanding into wider release. The film, based on the life of executed murderer Aileen Wuornos, took in $865,160 in 82 theaters for a strong $10,551 average.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at North American theaters, according to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc.

1. “Big Fish,” $14.5 million.

2. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King,” $14.1 million.

3. “Cheaper by the Dozen,” $12 million.

4. “Something’s Gotta Give,” $8.2 million.

5. “Cold Mountain,” $7.9 million.

6. “My Baby’s Daddy,” $7.8 million.

7. “Chasing Liberty,” $6 million.

8. “Paycheck,” $5.2 million.

9. “The Last Samurai,” $4.53 million.

10. “Mona Lisa Smile,” $4.5 million.

AP-ES-01-11-04 1804EST

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