Chinese distributor Beijing PolybonaFilm Distribution has issued an open letter accusing the local distributors of Curse Of The Golden Flower ofmonopolising China's digital cinema chains.

The company claims that analleged exclusive screening agreement to screen Golden Flower for one month has blocked other domestic films frombeing released on the country's 200 digital screens. One of the films affectedis Hong Kong production ConfessionOf Pain, which Polybona is opening on Dec 22.

"Golden Flower has broken the principle of fair competition and has monopolisedthe market," said Polybona CEO Yu Dong in the open letter.

Cinema owners in China's three major cities - Beijing, Shanghaiand Guangzhou - have confirmed that from Dec 14 to Jan 14 only Golden Flower will be shown on theirdigital screens. This is contrary to normal practise in which new digital releasesare screened every week.

Responding to Polybona'sallegation, Golden Flower distributorBeijing New Picture Films denied the existence of the exclusive screeningagreement.

"It is a common and normalcontract between distributors and the cinemas. If the digital cinemas choose toscreen only Golden Flower, it is thechoice of the market," Yang Yang, promotion director of Beijing New PictureFilms, told local media.

China Film Digital CinemaCircuit also denied the existence of the agreement. "We have never signed anexclusive agreement with the distributor of GoldenFlower and we have no comment on the dispute between the two distributioncompanies," deputy general manager Jiang Defu told Screendaily.

"Golden Flower is a domestic film [therefore meets China's digital cinema policy to promote local films]. Thereis no limit on the screening period for local films."

China now has 200 screens with digital projecting facilities. State-ownedChina Film Digital Cinema Circuit manages more than 180 of these screens and isin charge of providing digital prints to cinemas.

As a result of Golden Flower's month-long digital run,Jia Zhangke's Venice-winning Still Life,which opened on Dec 7, is also blocked from digital release.

Meanwhile, the Chinese filmauthorities have not authorised the release of any Hollywood blockbusters during the Christmas season. The only upcoming US release is ThePainted Veil, a co-production between Warner China Film HG Corp and the YariFilm Group, which will open on Dec 29.