Cinemas in China began a three-day suspension from today until Wednesday, as part of national mourning for the people killed in the earthquake which struck the south-west of the country on May 12.

China's State Council on Sunday ordered a nationwide display of respect for the dead. All public amusements will be suspended during the three-day mourning.

Following the order, the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) announced all cinemas in China will have their operation suspended for three days.

The death toll from the 8.0 magnitude quake had reached 32,500 by Sunday afternoon and is expected to rise to 50,000.

Some cinemas in Sichuan province, which was badly hit by the quake, had already stopped operations before the nationwide closure. At least six cinemas under the Sichuan Pacific cinema circuit were damaged, according to the news bulletin board of the company's official website.

The Pacific Cinema Circuit, which is partly owned by China Film Group, is the biggest cinema chain in Sichuan. In 2007, it grossed $22.31m (RMB156m) through 45 cinemas, and ranked number seven among China 's 34 cinema circuits.

The Film Bureau under SARFT had on last Friday spent $143,000 (RMB1m) helping cinemas in the disaster areas on reconstruction works.