With more than 16 heavy-weight releases jamming thre three-month period starting Nov 20, Chinese cinema owners are estimating that box office during the year-end season will reach $146m (RMB1bn), which is10% higher than the same season last year.

China'syear-end season, which traditionally takes place from late Nov to late Feb, combines Xmas and the Chinese New Year holidays. In contrast to last year's total black-out of foreign releases from December to mid-Feb, this year will see a more diverse line-up of product.

Three foreign titles, as well as Taiwanese hit Cape No.7, will be released in December and January, which is a rare case for the mainland China market.

Up until the end of September, China's overall box office stood at $392.09m (RMB2.678bn). The last quarter of 2008 is expected to take in more than $87.85m (RMB600m). With the addition of box office revenues from rural areas, the total should reach between $571m (RMB3.9bn) to $585.6m (RMB4bn), which is an increase of 19-22% on total revenue last year.

The weekend of Nov 21 will see five films battling for position - including two foreign films: Babylon A.D., which was released on Nov 17, and Hellboy II: The Golden Army, which will open Nov 21.

The two films face challenges from two Chinese films: Ma Liwen's comedy Desire Of The Heart, featuring local stars such as Ge You, Fan Bingbing and Vivian Wu (Nov 20), and action drama Beast Stalker, starring Nicholas Tse (Nov 20).

Babylon A.D. and Hellboy II will be the lasttwo Hollywood blockbusters to be released in China this year on a revenue-sharing basis.

Then next week, two local films go head-to-head on Nov 28: Fit Lover, another local all-star comedy with Karena Lam, Huang Xiaoming, Deng Chao and Tong Dawei, and The Underdog Knight, with Liu Ye and Anthony Wong.

December will see more high-profile films open. On Dec 5, Chen Kaige's Forever Enthralled, a biopic starring Leon Lai and Zhang Ziyi, will enjoy a large-scale release. Tsui Hark's romantic comedy All About WomenandIp Man, an action biopic starring Donnie Yen, will both be released on Dec 18.

Another heavy-weight is Feng Xiaogang's comedy If You Are the One, which will open on Dec 23. And the end of December will see Lady Cop & Papa Crook, starring Sammi Cheng, and local comedy Gao Xing competing with three foreign films - Paul Verhoeven's Black Book, August Rush and an unconfirmed foreign title - all of which will be imported on a flat-fee basis.

Cape No.7, which is Taiwan's highest-grossing local film ever, will be imported to mainland China during the year-end season.

The release date will be in either December or Jan 2009, according to China Film Import and Export Company. It will be the first Taiwanese film in 17 years to be imported to the mainland - the last was Mother, Love Me Once Again in 1988.

The year-end movie season has proved to be lucrative for local comedies which has prompted distributors to schedule such titles in November and December.

Also, the Beijing Olympic Games delayed a few releases from summer to the end of the year, which makes the year-end season especially crowded.

The last film in the year-end season will be John Woo's second episode of Red Cliff. Set to be released on Jan 15, the film is expected to bring revenue of 36.6m (RMB250m).