Ning Hao's black comedy Crazy Stone has become the highest-grossinglocal production at the Chinese box office so far this year, with box officereceipts of $775,000 (RMB6.2m).

The low-budget comedy, distributed by Warner China Film,was also the best performing domestic production during the "Local FilmProtection Month", which ended two days ago.

Ronny Yu's Fearless took a whopping $9m over Chinese New Year 2006, but was produced by Hong Kong's Bill Kong and had a Hong Kong director. Crazy Stone was backed by Hong Kong's Focus Films but has a mainland Chinese writer-director.

Released on June 30, Crazy Stone took a surprising $300,000(RMB2m) in its first weekend and rose 100% in its second week. Word-of-mouthand the fact that no pirate DVDs appeared in the market during its first weekare two major factors behind the film's success, according to Yuan Xin, generalmanager of Beijing's Stellar International Cineplex.

Another factor was the LocalFilm Protection Month which this year took place from June 11 to July 10. No revenue-sharing imported films werereleased during this period although flat-fee imported films were allowed toopen.

This year, the policy didnot seem to ensure strong box office for the majority of local films but benefitedseveral flat-fee, non-Hollywood imports.

French action film Sky Fighters was the top-grossingforeign film during the month, taking in $1.13m (RMB10m), while EuropCorp's Bandidas, starring Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek, grossed just over $1m for second place among foreign films for themonth.

Another film starringPenelope Cruz, action adventure Sahara, was released in the digital cinema circuit where itgrossed $780,000, a similar amount to CrazyStone. Octopus 2: River Of Fear, a production from 2001 that was notreleased theatrically in the US, made a surprising $400,000.

Crazy Stone appearsto be the only successful local film during the monthly blackout as Qi Jian's The Forest Ranger took in less than$400,000 and Xu Jinglei's small-budget DreamsMay Come took $50,000.

The White Countess, a co-production between Shanghai Film Group and Merchant IvoryProductions, which bypassed the quota system, has made a disappointing $250,000after two weeks.