'Flying Swords of Dragon Gate' - which stars Jet Li and Zhou Xun - has been lauded by critics for its groundbreaking use of 3D for its fight scenes. ©All Rights Reserved

(HONG KONG-Relaxnews) – Zhang Yimou’s The Flowers of War has come out on top after the first round of the festive season battle at the Chinese box office.

The much-hyped drama — which stars Oscar winner Christian Bale — took in just over 152 million yuan (18.3 million euros) from its opening weekend to hold off the challenge of the Tsui Hark-directed 3D martial arts spectacular Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, which collected close to 142 million yuan (17 million euros) over the same period.

Zhang’s film — set in the former Chinese capital of Nanjing during the Second World War — has not been far from the front pages over the past month, first with claims that it is pure propaganda and then by Bale’s much-publicized run-in with authorities when he attempted to visit the activist Chen Guangcheng, who is currently under house arrest in a village in the eastern Chinese province of Shandong.

But any publicity is good publicity, as the saying goes, and China has warmed to the film, which has been put forward as the country’s hope for next year’s Oscars.

Tsui’s epic — which stars Jet Li and Zhou Xun — has meanwhile been lauded by critics for its groundbreaking use of 3D for its fight scenes and managed to collect an impressive 3.25 million admissions, according to Film Business Asia.

Joining the fray in China this week will be two much-anticipated films by female directors — Barbara Wong’s drama Allure of Tears and the Xu Jinglei-directed thriller Dear Enemy.

Tom Cruise has in the past week been once again proving his immense global pull has lost none of its strength as his latest production — Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol — has dominated the box office in Japan (US$9.3 million or seven million euros) and in Hong Kong (US$1.3 million or 995,000 euros), according to Box Office Mojo.

The latest installment of the M:I series has also swept all before it in South Korea, where Han Cinema reported it had registered 1.75 million admissions in its first week.