After a considerable delay, Miramax released Zhang Yimou'smartial arts epic Hero in the US and it was easily the highlight of asluggish weekend, opening top and setting a record for an Asian picture on anestimated $17.8m.

The picture, which stars Jet Li as a nameless fighter inthird century China, earned great reviews and averaged $8,764 on 2,031 screens.

Sony's action sequel Anacondas: The Hunt For The BloodOrchid opened in second place on $13.2m, and stars Johnny Messner andMorris Chestnut in the tale of a scientific expedition to Borneo renderedcalamitous by a giant reptile. The picture averaged $4,543 on 2,905 screens.

Opening in a disappointing 10th place wasParamount's serial killer thriller Suspect Zero on $3.4m, which drew poorreviews and averaged $2,266 on 1,500 screens.

Aaron Eckhart, Ben Kingsley and Carrie-Anne Moss star in thestory of FBI agents on the hunt of a possible renegade who may be acting as avigilante killer.

The only other new release was Sony's children's story Superbabies:Baby Geniuses 2, which received atrocious write-ups and averaged $2,586 on1,276screens. Jon Voight and Scott Baio star.

Elsewhere, Buena Vista's family sequel The PrincessDiaries 2: Royal Engagement slipped one place to fourth on $8.1m for $75.1min its third weekend.

Warner Bros' Exorcist: The Beginning fell four tofifth in its second weekend on $6.7m for $30.8m.

Overall the top 12 pictures gross a combined $84.7m, thelowest mark in four months. Following on from the high-grossing fireworks of arecord summer season, this was a typically a quiet period as the studiosprepare to unload their autumnal guns in the run-up to awards season.

The official summer season ends on Labor Day Weekend nextweekend, when the wide releases include Lions Gate's comedy The Cookoutstarring Queen Latifah; 20th Century Fox's thriller Paparazzistarring Tom Sizemore and Dennis Farina; MGM's thriller Wicker Parkstarring Josh Hartnett; and Focus Features' adaptation of William Thackeray'sclassic 19th century satire Vanity Fair, which stars ReeseWitherspoon, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Romola Garai.

Estimated Top Ten US Aug 27-29 2004
Film (Distributor)/International distribution/Estimated weekend gross/Estimatedtotal to date

1 (-) Hero (Miramax) Miramax Int'l $17.8m -
2 (-) Anacondas: The Hunt For The Blood Orchid (Screen Gems) CTFDI$13.2m -
3 (2) Without A Paddle (Paramount) UIP $8.7m $27.9m
4 (3) Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement (Buena Vista) BVI $8.1m$75.1m
5 (1) Exorcist: The Beginning (Warner Bros) Warner Bros Int'l $6.7m$30.8m
6 (6) Collateral (DreamWorks) UIP $6.3m $80m
7 (5) Open Water (Lions Gate) Lions Gate Int'l
8 (4) Alien Vs Predator (Fox) Fox Int'l $4.8m $72.1m
9 (7) The Bourne Supremacy (Universal) UIP $4.6m $157.7m
10 (-) Suspect Zero (Paramount) UIP $3.4m