Media Asia's Infernal Affairs franchise is such a hot property on the Chinese mainland that a local distributor has snapped up the first two films before either has been cleared by the mainland authorities for theatrical release.

China's Stellar Megamedia Corp (SMC) has acquired mainland theatrical rights to both Infernal Affairs - which was a huge hit at the Hong Kong box office over Christmas - and its prequel Infernal Affairs 2 which is currently in production.

SMC is applying to release the first Infernal Affairs as one of the 20 revenue-sharing foreign films that China imports each year. It is also applying to set up Infernal Affairs 2 as a co-production with a Chinese studio, which will allow the film to bypass import quotas.

The first Infernal Affairs has already been released on VCD and DVD on the mainland where it sold more than two million units.

SMC, a recently established company with aggressive plans to invest in China's burgeoning entertainment industry, recently became the second largest shareholder in Hong Kong multimedia outfit Star East Holdings and also has a partnership with BARCO to invest in the roll-out of digital cinemas in China.

Infernal Affairs 2 is currently shooting in Hong Kong with a cast including Anthony Wong, Eric Tsang, Edison Chen and Shawn Yue - who are all reprising their roles from the original - along with Francis Ng and Carina Lau. Andrew Lau and Alan Mak, who co-directed the original, are again directing. A sequel to the original, Infernal Affairs 3, will also shoot this year.