With all policy decisions and initiatives on hold until after the Communist Party's 16th National Congress next month, it looks as if China's long-awaited second distributor won't be launched until the beginning of next year at the earliest.

The new entity, which is set to break China Film Corp's monopoly in the distribution of imported movies, was originally scheduled to be up and running this summer. However, in-fighting between China Film and the provincial studios has already delayed its launch by several months. China Film is jockeying to become the largest shareholder in the venture, a move which is opposed by China's provincial studio groups.

Under current proposals, China Film and its parent company would each be allowed to hold a 15% stake in the new company. Shanghai Film Studio, which has lobbied long and hard for the right to distribute foreign films, and Tianjin Film Studio would each be allowed stakes of about 12%. Other studio groups would each hold stakes of 8% and all the studios combined would not be allowed to own more than 50%.

"We're still working on the structure of the company, but the process is far from complete," said Shanghai Film Studio president Zhu Yongde (pictured).

Meanwhile, China has placed a blackout on imported movies while the party congress gears up to convene on November 8.

Most of the Communist Party's Central Committee is likely to be replaced at the congress - the first in five years - which could result in sweeping changes. One member of the old guard set to step down is China's propaganda chief, Ding Guangen. Although his successor has not been confirmed, observers expect him to be replaced by someone with a more relaxed approach to film censorship.