'Hero' film adaptation a hit in Japan

Toho says pic is on track to surpass ¥10 billion

TOKYO -- The film adaptation of the local TV hit "Hero" has taken the Japanese boxoffice by storm, opening Saturday on a record-breaking 475 screens and earning ¥1.08 billion ($9.4 million) over the weekend.

Distributor Toho said that about 750,000 people saw the big-screen debut of the Fuji Television Network series, but that figure might have been even higher had the country not been recovering from the impact of a major typhoon.

With a per-screen average of $19,790, Toho predicts "Hero" will surpass ¥10 billion in earnings and has a chance of being the highest-earning title in Japan this year.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" presently holds the top spot, with a gross of ¥11 billion.

The film has benefited enormously from the presence of Takuya Kimura, a member of the popular boy band SMAP, who plays the lead role of unconventional public prosecutor Kohei Kuryu.

"Hero" was initially a TV drama in 2001, quickly becoming the most-watched series in Japanese history, with an average viewer share of more than 34%. After a five-year break, Fuji resurrected the show in 2006 with a two-hour TV special, another big ratings success that paved the way for the movie version.

Directed by Masayuki Suzuki, the title has already been snapped up in other Asian markets and there are high hopes that it will break into the U.S. and European markets as well.

Kimura was in Cannes this year to promote the movie, which also will screen at the upcoming Pusan International Film Festival in South Korea.
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