‘Hero’ kicks B.O. records

Pic likely to be one of the biggest domestic hits of all time

SHANGHAI — Zhang Yimou’s Chinese-lingo martial arts epic “Hero” (Yingxiong) continues to set records: After its boffo opening day last month that earned 12 million Chinese renminbi ($1.45 million), the second day’s total was even higher, according to local Web site-of-record sina.com.

Distributed in China by Beijing New Picture (with Edko the distrib for Hong Kong), “Hero” grossed $11.8 million in its first seven days.

Starring Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, Zhang Ziyi and Jet Li, “Hero” is likely to be one of the biggest domestic hits of all time and is being tipped as a crossover success in the vein of “Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger.”

“Hero” opened in 200 theaters nationwide and broke attendance records at every one, according to U.S. distrib Miramax Films.

The film tells the story of a failed assassination attempt on the life of Emperor Qin Shihuang, who brutally united China in the third century B.C. Many reviewers praised “Hero” for its dramatic palette of colors and its handling of a complex piece of history. Others criticized the film on ideological grounds.

Media attention has helped China’s candidate for a nomination for Foreign Language Oscar. In order to qualify for the Oscars, “Hero” bowed in Shenzhen last month in a mini-run of seven days on one screen. Since then, the film has been almost constantly in the headlines. Sale by auction of domestic video rights for a record $2.15 million got tongues wagging earlier last month.

Pic’s nomination for the foreign-lingo section of the Golden Globes Dec. 19 added to the talk. And attempts to keep it from being pirated — a fate that ruins the B.O. chances of many films released in China — have brought piracy back into the public consciousness.

(Justin Oppelaar in New York contributed to this report.)