Beijing authorities have closed the city's cinemas for an indefinite period in an attempt to stop the spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), a move which executives fear may be followed in other cities and provinces.

The Beijing government decided Saturday to suspend all entertainment businesses involving mass public gatherings including karaoke houses, internet cafes, video game halls, theatres and cinemas.

The closures are likely to have a huge impact on the box office performance of The Lord Of The Rings: The Two Towers which was released by China Film Group Corp on Saturday. About 10% of China's cinemas are in Beijing.

According to China's Xinhua news agency, the decision was taken jointly by the Beijing Municipal Culture Bureau, the Public Security Bureau and the Industry and Commerce Bureau, in line with the national law on epidemic prevention and treatment.

The three bureaus will inspect the venues during closure to see if they can meet standards for disinfection and ventilation.