No Hollywood films will bereleased in China for the next five weeks in what seems to be turning into aregular blackout on foreign films over the summer holiday box office season.

It's understood that thefive-week ban officially begins today (July 20) and runs until the release ofUIP's War Of The Worlds on August 25. The Steven Spielberg blockbusterwas initially scheduled for release on August 11 but has reportedly been pushedback for two weeks.

The rescheduling echoesevents last summer when a seven-week blackout was slapped on foreign filmsbetween mid-June and August. At the time, the China Film Bureau said the banwas meant to reduce the amount of sex and violence that youngsters were beingexposed to. But the industry openly speculated that it was aimed at protectingthe release of Zhang Yimou's House Of Flying Daggers. The HongKong-China co-production grossed $18.4m (RMB153m) over its summer run.

This year, Tsui Hark's SevenSwords, also a Hong Kong-China co-production, looks set to benefit from thesummer blackout. The $18m martial arts epic is due for release in China andseveral other Asian territories on July 29.

Chinese authorities havedenied there's a ban on foreign films. The official reason for War Of TheWorld's two-week delay is the ongoing celebrations surrounding the 60thanniversary of the end of World War II.

And the ban doesn't coverall foreign productions as Japanese drama Quill premieres across Chinatomorrow (July 21). Its release is a little ironic given that China is also celebratingthe end of its war with Japan.

Meanwhile, US films thatwere still on screens at the beginning of the blackout will continue to playover the coming weeks. These include Madagascar which opened lastweekend (July 14), Mr & Mrs Smith and Batman Begins.

Due to rampant piracy, theUS studios have been pushing for China to be included in day-and-date globalreleases. Pirated DVD copies of Hollywood films are usually available on thestreets of China's major cities within days of the US release. War Of TheWorlds is already available in Beijing.

US studio executivesanticipate further blackouts over the National Day week-long holiday in Octoberand in December when two high-profile Chinese films - Chen Kaige's ThePromise and Zhang Yimou's Riding Alone For Thousands Of Miles - arescheduled for release.

"This means there are not many dates left," said one US studiorepresentative. "In fact, there's probably only two or three months left forthe rest of the year."

China allows 20revenue-sharing films to be imported each year. So far this year, 17revenue-sharing films have already been released of which 12 were US titles.