Courtroom drama tops with audiences

TOKYO — “Hero,” a courtroom-drama-cum-romance based on a hit Fuji TV series about a rebel prosecutor, finished its first weekend at No. 1 at the local box office, earning Y1.08 billion ($9.5 million dollars) on 750,000 admissions.

Released on 475 screens by distrib Toho — a record for a Japanese pic — “Hero” scored a sky-high screen average of $19,790.

Toho predicts the pic will finish north of $88 million and may even beat the year’s current No. 1, “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.”

 Fuji TV producer Chihiro Kameyama, the mastermind behind “Hero” and the hit “Bayside Shakedown” pics about cops in the trendy Tokyo Bay area, is even more upbeat. He believes that “Hero” may beat “Bayside Shakedown 2,” which set a record for a live-action local pic in 2003 with $152.6 million.

“Hero” began as a Fuji TV series, starring local megastar Takuya Kimura as a rule-breaking, delinquent-turned-prosecutor. Show racked up stupendous 30-plus ratings for every episode when it aired from January to March 2001.

Instead of signing Kimura and company to another season, however, Fuji dropped the show for five years, finally reviving it for a two-hour special that aired in July 2006 and also scored over 30.

By this time, a “Hero” feature was in the works.

In addition to Kimura and most of the original TV series cast, the pic stars Korean heartthrob Lee-Byung Hung and was shot partly in the South Korean seaside resort of Pusan.

The pic will open next month’s Pusan Film Festival and is skedded to be released on 250 screens in South Korea — a record for a Japanese pic in the territory. Theatrical releases throughout Asia are planned.

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