'Golden Flower' breaks China b.o. record

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BEIJING - Director Zhang Yimou's "Curse Of The Golden Flower" earned 96 million yuan ($12.5 million) in its first four days on 826 screens breaking previous opening weekend records for a domestic film in China, producers said Monday.

China's pick for the 2007 Oscars, "Curse" stars Gong Li, the mainland's most respected veteran acrtress, opposite martial arts heartthrob Chow Yun-fat in addition to Taiwan pop star Jay Chou.

After its Dec. 14 opening in Chinese cinemas, "Curse" quickly overtook China's previous domestic film release opening weekend record, from 2005, when director Chen Kaige's "The Promise" opened on 600 prints and grossed 75 million yuan ($9.7 million), "Curse" producers at EDKO Films in Hong Kong said in a statement.

Tickets in China's major cities were sold for prices as high as 70 yuan ($8.75), twice the national average and well out of reach of the average Chinese (HR 12/14).

Sony Pictures Classics will release "Curse," a story about an imperial family's slow decline, in North America on Thursday (12/21) in New York.

SPC then plans to release "Curse" on Friday (12/22) in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle, Honolulu, Boston, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Dallas, Houston, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, Toronto and Vancouver. SPC plans a nationwide U.S. release in January.

China's other top domestic and co-produced movie opening weekends include director Zhang's own "House of Flying Daggers," which took in 61 million yuan ($7.9 million) in 2004, his "Hero," which grossed 53 million yuan ($4.5 million) on 350 prints in 2002, and Feng Xiaogang's opening with Hong Kong's 2007 Oscar submission, "The Banquet," which grossed 45 million yuan ($5.8 million) on 755 prints earlier this year.

China's all-time boxoffice total record holder is "Titanic" which brought in 350 million yuan ($44 million) in 1997. Opening weekend figures for "Titanic" were not immediately available.
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