The latest blockbuster from Chinese director Zhang Yimou, The Curse of the Golden Flower, brought in 15 million yuan (US$1.9 million) within 5 hours on its first day.
The 45-million-dollar movie was on show starting from 7 PM on December 14 nationwide in China.
"The movie reaped 15 million yuan in the country within 5 hours. It is reasonable to believe that its nationwide box office would top 100 million yuan in one week, and to reach 300 million shortly after the new year," said Gao Jun, an executive from the Beijing based New Film Association.
"We are optimistic that the film will make a new box office record in China," said Gao.
The current box office record in China was set in 1998 by Titanic with 350 million yuan (US$44 million), while Zhang Yimou's Hero in 2002 set a record box office among Chinese homemade movies with 250 million yuan (US$31 million).
Hero sold 10 million yuan (US$1.3 million) worth of tickets on the first day it was released.
Curse, which stars Gong Li, Zhang Ziyi, Chow Yun-Fat and Taiwan pop star Jay Chou, tells the story of an imperial family's slow decline and features spectacular battle scenes between the sons of the reigning emperor and empress.
According to an on-line survey by Sina.com, a popular portal website, close to 63 percent of the 1,585 respondents rated the movie as good or excellent, and more than 64 percent said they would recommend the movie to their friends.
"It is a fantastic movie, just like director Zhang's previous ones. Chow Yun-Fat and Gong Li really did a good job acting, and so did Jay Chou. He did much better than his last movie," said a Beijing woman named Shangguan, who bought 11 tickets to the movie for her family and friends.
"This is the one that can represent the movie business in China, I think it'll win the Oscar for Best Foreign Film," she said.
The Curse is also receiving criticism for its over-lavish scenes and weak storyline which also haunted Zhang Yimou's previous epics, Hero in 2002 and House of Flying Daggers in 2004.
Fifty-five percent of those taking part in the online survey said they were intrigued by the lavish costumes and kung fu, while slightly more than 18 percent said they were fascinated by the plot.
(Xinhua News Agency December 18, 2006)