Hero is #1 Box Office Surprise

Hero Is #1 Box Office Surprise |  Singer Laura Branigan Dead

Hero Is #1 Box Office Surprise

It's almost like "Kill Bill, Volume 2.5." The weekend's runaway number one hit turns out to be Zhang Yimou's "Hero," produced by Quentin Tarantino and released by Miramax. The martial arts action film, starring Jet Li, took in $6.8 million on Friday night. It should have a $20-$22 million total by Sunday night. Add that to the $104 million it's already made overseas. Not bad for a film that cost $30 million.

Yimou already has quite a following from previous hits like "Raise the Red Lantern" and "To Live", but I don't think anyone quite expected "Hero" to take off so quickly. What's very interesting is that the film is playing at only 2,035 theatres, a good 900 fewer than Friday's number two release, "Anacondas: Hunt for the Blood Orchid". "Hero"'s astonishing $3,348 per screen average is considerably more than any other film in release right now.

Meantime, two big releases with mega movie stars are stuggling to stay afloat. Both "Collateral", starring Tom Cruise, and "The Manchurian Candidate", with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep, continue to do disappointing business despite the fact that both will be up for many Oscar nominations later this year. Go figure!

Singer Laura Branigan, 47, Dead

Sad news: Laura Branigan, the throaty 80s pop star whose hits included "Gloria", "Self Control", and "How Do I Live Without You?", has died. According to her website, Branigan passed away in her sleep Thursday night from a brain aneurysm. She celebrated her 47th birthday last month.

Branigan, who came from Brewster, New York, was married twice. Her first husband, Larry Krutek, died in 1996. They'd been married for fifteen years. Friends remember him as being much older than Branigan, whom he managed. Her brother Billy Branigan is an actor and a singer as well.

Branigan's recording career happened at Atlantic Records, where she was developed and nurtured first by Ahmet Ertegun and then by Doug Morris—now head of Universal Music Group—with whom she had a close working relationship.