Hero, Anacondas Strangle Newcomers

The Miramax-distributed Jet Li period actioner, Hero, vanquished new arrivals at the box office to remain on top for a second week. Fellow holdovers Without a Paddle and Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid also put the squeeze on freshmen Paparazzi from 20th Century Fox, Wicker Park from MGM, Vanity Fair from Focus Features and The Cookout from Lions Gate.

Animal Logic, The Orphanage and Tweak Films contributed effects work to director Zhang Yimou’s Hero, which kicked up another $11.5 million over the weekend, bringing its cume to around $35.2 million. Paramount’s buddy comedy, Without a Paddle, is having no trouble treading water in its third week. The pic holds onto second place with an estimated $9.4 million, followed by Anacondas with around $8 million. The giant snake sequel boasts digital effects by Australian effects house, Photon.

Mel Gibson may be on top of the world with the box office performance and DVD sales of The Passion of the Christ, but Paparazzi, which he exec. produced, endured a lackluster debut. The film about an action star driven to take extreme measures to protect his family from greedy photographers earned an estimated $7.8 million to land in fourth place. Yet another holdover, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, rounds out the top five with around $7.3 million.

The Josh Hartnet psychological thriller, Wicker Park, bowed in sixth place with an estimated $6.7 million, while Vanity Fair and The Cookout each did just north of $6 million to debut at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively.