Paramount Pictures International has launched its new China office, based in Shanghai, which officially opens today (July 1).

The Paramount China Representative Office will work with the state-run China Film Group, which imports all films in China, as well as with China Film Distribution and HuaXia Distribution for all of Paramount’s theatrical releases in the territory.

Zhe Chen will head the office.

Andrew Cripps, London-based president of PPI, said: “This is a step change for Paramount into the fastest growing, and one of the most exciting cinema markets in the world. We are very proud of the success of Paramount’s theatrical releases in China to date. With the creation of the Paramount China Representative Office, we will be able to work even more closely with China Film Group, in bringing future Paramount films to the local market and to explore local production opportunities.”

The first release after the office’s set up will be GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra.

PPI has already seen one hit in China this summer, as Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen grossed $24.3m in its first five days of release, setting a record for the highest-ever opening of an English-language film in China. Last year’s DreamWorks Animation title Kung Fu Panda, distributed by PPI, was the highest-grossing non-Chinese film in China in 2008.

Despite allowing the exhibition of only 20 foreign films per year, China can be big business for the studios — studio films make up about 40% of China’s annual box office. In 2008, China’s total box office receipts were about $635m.