Chinese cinema brings out the big guns over next month

The heavyweights of Chinese film are steeling themselves for a box office battle as the country enters its traditionally lucrative end-of-year cinema season.

Over the next month some of China's biggest stars and most acclaimed filmmakers will premiere their latest additions to a Chinese cinematic scene that is going from strength to strength.

Director Jingle Ma's long-awaited Mulan, Zhang Yimou's Amazing Tales: Three Guns and Teddy Chen's Bodyguards and Assassins will be vying for an audience that in the past year has been treated to the opening of - on average - a new cinema each day across the country, according to film industry watchers.

And Chinese films have dominated the domestic market this year too - a rare thing in the face of an increased presence of Hollywood blockbusters. The Founding of a Republic - produced to mark the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic - last month became the highest-grossing film in the country's history, when it passed the 406 million yuan (40 million euros) mark.

It is currently still screening and knocked off the previous all-time box office champion in China, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

International distributors now keep a close watch on Chinese's domestic box office tallies as the local industry continues to expand into more commercial filmmaking and whether or not the films will be picked up for international release hinges on how they fare back home.

Helping out in that regard have been Hong Kong's market-savvy movie makers and two of that city's box office champions have co-productions set for release over the next month.

Here's a sneak peek of what's in store at the Chinese box office over the next month:

Mulan: Hong Kong director Jingle Ma presents Chinese box office darling Vicky Zhao Wei in the title role and his film follows closely the life and times of the legendary Chinese warrior princess Hua Mulan, made famous through a 12th century poem and the inspiration for Disney's 1998 animated film of the same name. Release date: November 27

Amazing Tale: Three Guns: Internationally acclaimed director Zhang Yimou made his name with sweeping dramas such as Raise the Red Lantern but here he takes the American Coen brothers' 1984 thriller Blood Simple and sets it in a noodle shop in ancient China. Comedian Xiao Shenyang stars. Release date: December 11

Bodyguards and Assassins: Hong Kong's Teddy Chen (who made The Accidental Spy with Jackie Chan) has packed this thriller with talent such as Donnie yen Leon Lai, and Fan Bingbing. It tells the story of a group of bodyguards sent to protect the Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-Sen from assassins in 1905 Hong Kong. Release date: December 18

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