Zhang Yimou's Hero broke box office records when it opened in China last Friday (December 20), grossing more than $1.45m (RMB12m) in a single day from 200 screens.

According to distributor Beijing New Picture Film Co, the martial arts epic - known as Ying Xiong in Chinese - broke house records in every cinema it played in.

In Beijing, the film grossed an impressive $230,000 (RMB1.9m) from 26 screens. Audiences queued round the block to see the film, despite freezing temperatures and the heaviest snowfall the city has experienced in over a decade. Cinemas started to add shows as early as 6.00am and as late as 2.00am to satisfy demand.

Hero also opened strongly in Hong Kong, grossing $945,000 (HK$7.34m) over a four-day period (December 19 - 22) from 46 screens. The film came in third at the weekend box office behind Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets with $1.13m (HK$8.77m) and local action vehicle Infernal Affairs with $989,000 (HK$7.68m). However, Hero had the highest screen average of $20,600 (HK$159,700), compared to $16,400 (HK$127,100) for Harry Potter and $16,500 (HK$128,000) for Infernal Affairs.

The film was premiered in October in a single location in China in order to qualify as China's entry for the foreign-language Oscar. Hero will be released in North America, Latin America, the UK, Australia, Africa and Italy by Miramax. Other territories outside Asia are sold by Focus Features, which backed the film produced by Beijing New Picture Film Co and Hong Kong's Elite Group Enterprises.