Amid rumors of a prolonged black-out period on US blockbusters, Sony's Will Smith-starrer The Pursuit Of Happyness is now scheduled for release in China on Jan 17. Chinese film import officials confirmed the release date.

The film will be released on a revenue-sharing basis but will be shown only in the country's 350 to 380 digital screens. The release of the film is seen as a way to break rumours of an alleged ban on Hollywood movies during the first three months of 2008.

Beijing-based cinemas earlier this month told Screendaily that from Jan to March 2008, the majority of films in the country's cinemas will be Chinese or non-US movies. More than ten local films will be released between Dec 2007 and mid-Feb 2007, thus creating an extended Chinese year-end movie season.

Last Thursday, during the China-US Strategic Economic Dialogue held in Beijing, US Trade Representatives expressed concerns about the alleged ban and said if the ban was true then the US government 'would continue to push very hard on the issue'.

On the same day, China 's State Administration of Radio, Film and Television (SARFT) published a notice on its official website, saying that the Chinese government has never decided to ban American films from exhibition.

According to the release schedules of several Beijing-based cinema owners, there are three foreign films scheduled before mid-Feb: The Pursuit Of Happyness, Doraemon The Movie from Japan and a yet-to-be-confirmed Spanish title.

It is understood that Pursuit Of Happyness was originally scheduled for release in China in late 2007 and passed Chinese censorship one month ago. It was postponed to early 2008 because the number of revenue-sharing foreign films in 2007 had reached the quota of 20 by mid-November.