BEIJING — Local films captured an increased share of China’s box office in the first eight months of the year.

La Peikan, deputy director general of the Film Bureau, said Thursday that gross box office in the eight months to August had grown to 2.37 billion yuan ($348 million), up 31% over the equivalent period last year.

He said Chinese movies enjoyed a 57% market share, worth $197 million. Fully 40% of the nationwide B.O. total, and 72% of the Chinese-language total, came from just three films: “Red Cliff,” “CJ7” and “Kung Fu Dunk.”

“This is a very propitious start to the year, and there will be more quality films to come toward the end of the year,” La said. He pointed to Gordon Chan’s “Painted Skin,” Chen Kaige’s “Mei Lanfang” and Feng Xiaogang’s next pic, though he added that Lu Chuan’s “Nanjing, Nanjing,” may not see release until early 2009.

La said China is on course to produce more than 400 movies again this year, having produced 403 in 2007. But he also said that of the 400-plus total, typically only 100 get a theatrical release due to the country’s severe shortage of screens.

La was speaking Thursday at a seminar held as part of the 12th Beijing Screenings series.