In an unusual move, Chinese video rights to Zhang Yimou's widely-anticipated martial arts epic Hero were sold at an auction last week in Beijing, where they fetched a record-breaking $2.15m (RMB17.8m).

Around 18 companies paid a deposit of $36,000 (RMB300,000) to join the bidding, which started at $965,000 (RMB8m). The film finally went to a consortium of three Guangdong distributors - TCL Culture Development Co, Guangdong Face Audio and Video Production Co and Guangdong Wei Kai Audio & Video Product Co.

The 90-minute auction was organised by Hero's Chinese co-producer, Beijing New Picture Film Co, as more than 30 local companies were clamouring to acquire mainland video rights.

Hero, which stars a host of Asian talent including Jet Li, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu-Wai and Zhang Ziyi, recently had a seven-day run in a cinema in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, in order to qualify for the foreign-language category of next year's Oscars.

The film opens in Hong Kong and China on December 19.