Aurelio De Laurentiis has announcedthat his Rome-based Filmauro production company has purchased the rights to The Last Legion author Valerio MassimoManfredi's The Empire of Dragons,with principal shooting to take place in China next year.

A period epic adventure, Dragon winds a historical tale thatintersects the Roman and Chinese civilizations.

Currently being adapted for the bigscreen, the book takes off from a weakened Roman outpost in southern Anatoliain 260 AD. The last Romans there are captured to work in mines. When theirEmperor dies they escape, join forces with an exiled Chinese prince andaccompany him to China to help him win back his throne.

De Laurentiis also announced four otherprojects on his production slate, re confirming Jon Avnet (Fried Green Tomatoes, Risky Business) is set to direct theadaptation of the Italian best selling debut thriller penned by local comicactor Giorgio Faletti entitled I Kill(Io Uccidio) about Monaco's firstserial killer.

Three other productions on the 2007slate focus on the local comic blockbusters Filmauro is noted for, but arewithout details. Those will be the next pictures of Love Manual director CarloVerdone, Neri Parenti (director of the annual Filmauro Christmas blockbuster -this year's edition is Christmas in NewYork) as well as writer/director Giovanni Veronesi's next film.

De Laurentiis made the announcementsfrom the Autumn Screenings in Rome, as he underlined the feebleness of Italianbox-office results this fall. Although the current season registers a boxoffice up 4% over 2005, in respect to 2004 it is behind by 13%.