Zhang Yimou's $31m martial arts epic Hero is set for a wide release across Asia via Twentieth Century Fox which has acquired a slew of Asian rights to the film outside China and Hong Kong.

Territories snapped up by Fox include India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Taiwan. The studio will first release the film in Singapore on January 16 and roll it out across most other Far Eastern territories from mid-January to the beginning of February, to coincide with the lucrative Chinese New Year holiday period. An Indian release will follow a few months later, possibly in April.

The highly-anticipated film, which features an all-star cast including Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai, Zhang Ziyi and Donnie Yen, opens first in Hong Kong and China on December 19. Chinese distribution is being handled by Beijing New Picture Film Co, which co-produced with Hong Kong producer Bill Kong's Elite Group Enterprises.

In Hong Kong the film is being distributed by Kong's Edko Films. Chinese video rights were recently sold to a consortium of three mainland distributors at an auction in Beijing for a record-breaking $2.15m (RMB17.8m).

Outside Asia the film is represented by Universal's speciality unit Focus Features. Miramax has all rights in North America, Latin America, the UK, Australia/New Zealand, South Africa, Africa and Italy.

Two years ago, Fox acquired world rights outside China, France and North America to Zhang's previous film, Happy Times, a co-production between Guangxi Film Studio and Edward R Pressman and Terrence Malick's Sunflower Productions. Sony Classics acquired rights for the US.

Hero has also been selected as China's official entry for next year's foreign-language Oscar following a seven-day qualifying run on a single screen in Shenzhen in southern China.