Martial arts film 'Hero' is big hit at box office

A martial arts epic set in China 2,000 years ago has built on its record-breaking success in America by pulling in the biggest box office receipts for an Asian film in UK history.

Hero , which stars the martial arts superstar Jet Li and has been described as one of the most beautiful films ever made, took more than £1m this weekend.

In London's West End, it took more per screen than the British comedy Wimbledon and the Tom Cruise thriller Collateral .

It was the second largest opening weekend figure for any foreign language film in the UK after Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ , which was a sell-out in many cinemas after church groups block-booked seats to encourage people to see it.

The success of Hero , directed by Zhang Yimou, who was responsible for the Oscar-nominated Raise the Red Lantern , confirms a change in British cinema habits with foreign films such as Amélie winning great reviews and decent audiences. It is also the most successful Chinese film released in Asia, where it has taken nearly $30m (£16.6m) in China alone. In America, it opened at number one and took $18m in the first weekend.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon , the first Asian martial arts film to win mainstream recognition, took £700,000 when it opened in the UK.

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