Tong Gang, director of China's Film Bureau, has announced that China produced 330 films in 2006, an increase of 27% fromthe 260 produced the previous year.

Speaking at the opening ofthe CineAsia conference which is being held for the second time in Beijing, Tong added that two thirds of these films were internationalco-productions or had been produced by private domestic companies.

Chinese authoritiesannounced separately earlier in the week that more than 100 of these films weredigital productions, up from 52 last year, accounting for about one third ofthe country's total output. One of the biggest domestic hits of the year, NingHao's Crazy Stone, was a digitalproduction which was made for just $383,600 (RMB3m) and went on to gross morethan $2.8m (RMB22m).

Tong also said that 70 newcinemas with 300 screens opened in 2006, which means that China now has 1,300 cinemas in total with 3,000 screens. Currentlythere are 34 cinema circuits in China.

During his keynote speech, Tongalso pointed out that digital development is a key issue in the Film Bureau'spolicy. "We see digitalisation as the locomotive engine in the developingChinese film industry," he said.

Tong added that the FilmBureau aims to set up a technical standard for digital cinemas that "fits in withChinese national conditions" and to also set up digital cinema facilities andregular screenings in the country's rural areas.