Shanghai Film Group, Beijing New Film Group and Zhejiang Film and TV Group announced that they will partner with Huayi Brothers to invest in Feng Xiaogang's $10m war movie The Assembly. The three groups signed the partnership deal Monday in Beijing.

Together with Huayi Brothers, the four mainland Chinese investors will be sharing the Chinese market gross of the film, while Hong Kong's Media Asia takes charge of sales of South East Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Also partnering with Huayi Brothers are eight major cinema circuits in China. The circuits have set up a minimum guarantee deal for the box office of The Assembly, which is to be released on Dec 20.

Although the amount of the deal is not disclosed, Wang Zhongjun, chairman of Huayi Brothers, said at the press conference that the partners aim for a $19.39m (RMB150m) box-office gross in the mainland China market.

The eight circuits - Beijing New Film Circuit, Shanghai United Circuit, China Film Stella Megamedia Circuit, China Film Southern Circuit, China Film Digital Circuit, Wanda Cinema Circuit, Zhejiang Shidai Circuit and Sichuan Pacific Circuit - account for 80% of total box-office grosses in the China market.

It is the second time China's eight major cinema owners have jointly signed a deal with distributors on release dates or minimum sales of a film. Last month, Shanghai Film Group signed with the eight circuits confirming Jay Chou-starrer Slam Dunk to be released on Feb 7, 2008.

The announcement of The Assembly's release date also unveils the marketing battle of local films during the upcoming Christmas season. Peter Chan's The Warlords is currently scheduled for Dec 30, while Stephen Chow's A Hope will be released after the Christmas season.

Starring Zhang Hanyu, Liao Fan and Deng Chao,The Assemblyis about a commander rediscovering the truth behind a severe battle, during which he lost all his men and became the only survivor.