Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End has been approved by Chinese censors and can be released mid-June at the earliest, according to state-owned distributor Huaxia Film Distribution and cinema owners from Beijing and Shanghai.

The exact release date of the third film in the Pirates franchise is yet to be confirmed but it will be after Spider-Man 3 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which will be released on May 1 and May 22 respectively, according to a source from Huaxia.

The second film in the Pirates franchise, Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, was banned from release in China last year, due to the grotesque look of one character and some supernatural elements.

Local film execs and media have been speculating furiously about whether the film, which stars Chinese actor Chow Yu-fat, would be approved. Chinese media reported that the film was sent to film censors in April, as an attempt to gain an approval early enough for a day-and-date release on May 25, although this looks unlikely now.

Beijing Xinyinglian, one of China 's top three cinema circuits, has been told to arrange time slots for the film, according to the company's general manager Gao Jun.

'We think mid-June will be good timing as both Spider-Man and Turtles will be over the sales peak by then,' he said. The only concern, Gao added, is that the release date might clash with the 'local film promotional month'. During the one-month 'black out', no revenue-sharing foreign films will be allowed for release.

It is unclear if the censors have demanded cuts of Pirates as a condition of the approval. Disney's China representative declined to comment on this matter.

The first Pirates film, Pirates Of the Caribbean: The Curse Of The Black Pearl, was released in China in 2003 and grossed $2.98m (RMB27m).