The stars and the crowds turned out in force for Tom Tykwer's opening night film Heaven. The high security gala ceremony, with 2,500 guests, was attended by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, star Cate Blanchett and Miramax Films' co-chief Harvey Weinstein.

Co-producers Maria Köpf and Anthony Minghella, Blanchett and Tykwer also dazzled at the press conference earlier in the day. But initial press reactions to the film were distinctly cool. At the first press screening it took one brave soul to start the clapping.

Meanwhile, the festival suffered a disappointing blow when eminent Chinese director Zhang Yimou cancelled his trip to the event in support of his official selection film, Happy Times.

The attendance had been in doubt for a while as Zhang is in post-production on his next film, the big budget Hero. His withdrawal comes days after separate cancellations by two of the film's leads - Zhao Benshan and Dong Jie.

Although there was no suggestion of political intervention this time, Zhang has previously pulled out of festivals after running into trouble with the Chinese authorities. Keep Cool was kept out of Cannes in 1997 by the government, while several of his films have been banned at home. In 1994, China banned him from making films for five years.

In separate festival news, Berlinale has cut the cost of tickets following a mix-up caused by the introduction of the Euro at the beginning of this year.

From Monday onwards prices will be cut to last year's levels following the personal intervention of festival chief Dieter Kosslick.

Tickets for the public went on sale earlier this week and were set at Euros 7-Euros 12 each, depending on the screening. That was a 16%-20% increase on 2001 levels, when tickets cost the Deutschemark equivalent of Euros 6-Euros10.

The festival's ticket service admits that the new, lower prices will reduce the box office take - but that may be offset by the ever-growing popularity of the festival. The Berlinale organisers estimate that some 420,000 people will pass through its turnstiles - and metal detectors - by the end of the twelve-day event. That would be a record number.

Receipts from ticket sales (and sponsorship) had previously been estimated at Euros 3.5m over the full 12 days. (Ticket income is dwarfed by the Euros 5.7m contribution from the Federal government.)

Tickets for next week's screenings at the new low prices do not go on sale until tomorrow (Friday 8 Feb), so there will be no need for refunds.