As the number of cinemas and admissions continues to grow, China's 2007 boxoffice is expected to break the $400m (RMB3bn) milestone, industry players have estimated.

According to monthly statistics from the Film Bureau of the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT), total box office for the first half of the year reached $138.8m (RMB1.05bn). Meanwhile, total box office up until the end of July stands at $187.67m (RMB1.42bn).

As the Jan-June figure represents a 30% increase on the first half of 2006, industry players are estimating that annual box office grosses are likely to break the RMB3bn milestone this year. Box office has been growing at a steady rate of 30% for the past two years, reaching RMB2bn in 2005 and RMB2.6bn in 2006.

The summer season has seen even greater increases with box office grosses up by around 60% in June and July, compared to the same period last year, according to Beijing-based cinema owners.

Around 100 new cinemas and more than 700 screens have opened in China so far this year, contributing to the growth, while the number of admissions has increased by around 33% on average from Jan to June this year.

In addition, Hollywood blockbusters have had a strong run in China this year. Four films have broken the $13m (RMB100m) threshold: Spider-Man 3, Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End, Transformers and Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix . Only nine films have broken this barrier since China opened its market to imported films in 1994.

As there are only two slots left in the quota for revenue-sharing foreign films until the end of the year, the rest of 2007 looks set to be dominated by Chinese-language titles.

Upcoming releases include Ang Lee's Lust, Caution and Jiang Wen's The Sun Also Rises, which will both be released in late September after competing in Venice, while Triangle, Johnnie To's Linger and Brothers starring Andy Lau will all be released in October.

December sees a battle between two war epics - Peter Ho-sun Chan's The Warlords and Feng Xiaogang's The Assembly, which will be released on December 13 and 20 respectively.