The first part of John Woo's war epic Red Cliff had a strong opening in major Asian territories on Thursday (July 10), grossing around $4.7m in total from mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea.

In mainland China, the film grossed more than $2.92m (RMB20m) on its opening day, according to cinema owners in Beijing and Shanghai, while the film's mainland distributor, China Film Group, reported takings of more than $3.64m (RMB25m).

Either way, the film has broken the opening day record for mainland China, which was briefly held by The Forbidden Kingdom when it opened in April with RMB16m on its first day. Prior to that, Curse Of The Golden Flower (2006) and Assembly (2007) both made around RMB15m on their opening day.

Red Cliff opened in China on 700 film prints and 700 digital screens, which is also the biggest release ever in Chinese film history.

China Film Group president Han Sanping estimates the film will reach $14.58m (RMB100m) in four days. The group's marketing arm estimates the total gross of the film to break the RMB200m benchmark, while aiming to reach RMB300m.

In Korea, Red Cliff also opened on July 10 and topped the box office chart, ahead of Hancock, Wanted and local hitPublic Enemy Returns. The film's Korean investor Showbox Mediaplexreleased the film on a hefty 437 screens nationwide and reports that it took in 130,960 admissions.

In Hong Kong, where Mei Ah Entertainment is distributing, the film took $257,500 (HK$2m) from 60 screens on its opening day.

In Taipei, Red Cliff grossed $260,000 (NT$7.9m) and is estimated to have taken around $520,000 (NT$15.8m) from 120 screens across Taiwan. Taiwanese investor CMC Entertainment is co-distributing the film with Twentieth Century Fox.

Billed as the most expensive Asian film ever made, John Woo's return to Chinese-language filmmaking isgenerally seen as having had a strong start, despite some mixed reviews.

Shanghai-based Xin Min Evening News said the film has brilliant battle scenes, but is weak on dramatic tension as well as the traditional male-bonding elements, which are seen as a trademark of Woo's movies, especially in Asia.

Meanwhile Beijing Evening News shared similar views, commenting that the film excels in fighting scenes, but is shallow in expressing the spirit of the classic novel, Romance Of The Three Kingdoms, on which it is based.

Bloggers in mainland China generally praised the film's grand action scenes, butpicked faults withits overly-modern dialogues and the average performances of the Asian stars in the film.

However, an internet poll by, one of China's largest portal sites, indicated that more than 52% of the audience enjoyed the film, and more than 60% would like to see the second instalment, which opens in December.

Mixed reviews also appeared in Korea and Taiwan. Nam Dong-chul, editor-in-chief of Korea's leading film magazine Cine21, gave the film 2.5 stars out of five.

On the other hand, Lee Hoonam of JoongAng Daily News, one of the nation's top three daily newspapers, gave the film high marks: 'Although Red Cliff has less of the smooth taste of a Hollywood blockbuster, it has the distinct pleasure that comes from the themes of friendship and loyalty between two men characteristic of a John Woo film.'

Taipei Times praised the film: 'Woo lives up to his reputation as a masterful storyteller who reinvigorates an overworked genre with a good old-fashioned narrative developed by a rich cast of capable actors.'

Red Cliff will open in Malaysia on July 17 and Japan in November. Chinese video distributor Zoke Culture has announced that it will release the legitimate DVD of the first part of Red Cliff (without English sub-titles) at the end of July.

Jean Noh in Seoul and Stephen Cremin in Taipei contributed to this article.