Riding high on strong reviews TheLast Samurai vanquished the opposition atthe weekend as it opened on a table-topping $24.4m, according to studioestimates.

Warner Bros' nineteenth century epic was more than $10m ahead ofUniversal's dance drama Honey, which opened in second place on $14m and marked the only other wideopener.

In The Last Samurai, Tom Cruise plays a troubled Civil War veteran recruited to crusha samurai rebellion in Japan who ends up joining the sword-wielding warriors ina last stand against the emperor's modern army.

Ken Watanabe, Timothy Spall and Koyuki star under director EdwardZwick. The film averaged $8,399 from 2,908 sites.

Honeystars Jessica Alba and follows the trials and tribulations of a music videochoreographer and averaged $7,209 from 1,942 sites. Billie Woodruff's filmsuffered so-so reviews and also stars Lil' Romeo and Mekhi Phifer.

Universal's The Cat In The Hat was shunted into fifth place on $7.3m for $85.5m in its third weekendon release, while Buena Vista's The Haunted Mansion held its own in third, adding $9.5m for$46.1m after ten days.

New Line's Christmas comedy Elf stayed the course in its fifth week asit slipped one place to fourth on $8.1m for a $139.6m running total.

Fox's Master And Commander fell three to ninth on $3.8m for $72.6m in its fourth weekwhile Universal's Love Actually dropped one to 10th and is on the verge of passing $50m afteradding $3.7m for $48.9m in its fifth week.

Overall the top 12 films bucked the trend of slowpost-Thanksgiving weekends as they combined for $91.8m, up 34% against the sameperiod last year.

Estimated Top Ten US Dec 5-7 2003

Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekendgross/Estimated total to date

1 (-) The Last Samurai (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Int'l $24.4m -

2 (-) Honey (Universal) UIP $14m -

3 (2) The Haunted Mansion (Buena Vista) BVI $9.5m $46.1m

4 (3) Elf(New Line) NLI $8.1m $139.6m

5 (1) The Cat In The Hat (Universal) DreamWorks/UIP $7.3m $85.5m

6 (5) Bad Santa (Dimension) Miramax International $7.1m $27.2m

7 (4) Gothika (Warner Bros) Columbia TriStar $5.3m $49.6m

8 (7) The Missing (Columbia) Columbia TriStar/Revolution $4.4m $22.2m

9 (6) Master And Commander (Fox) Fox Int'l $3.8m $72.6m

10 (9) LoveActually (Universal) UIP$3.7m $48.9m