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Colm Bairéad’s drama An Cailín Ciúin (The Quiet Girl) has become the highest-grossing Irish-language film of all time around the world, and first Irish-language drama to gross €1m at the Ireland and UK box office.

The film is continuing to screen at Irish cinemas almost 22 weeks following its release by Break Out Pictures, in partnership with Curzon in the UK.

Break Out Pictures said strong word of mouth, support from cinemas and a growing interest in stories told in the Irish language have all played a part. 

“One of the key early decisions we made was finding a partner in the UK which was Curzon,” said Robert McCann Finn, co-founder of Break Out with Nell Roddy. “Traditionally arthouse independent films go in autumn. But we always felt that if people got a chance to watch it, they would react to it.

“We knew it would need space on the calendar and to get cinemas behind us to support it. We tried particularly to get the Irish independent cinemas outside Dublin behind it and it became part of their story as well.”

The distributors opted for a May 12th release date, with the intention of offering counter-programming to summer’s big blockbusters.

“That was the traditional way in the old 35mm days, so the May release date was key,” observed McCann Finn.

But the opening weekend did not quite go according to plan, as the first burst of summer sunshine impacted cinema attendances across Ireland and the UK.

“May 12th was a scorcher of weekend,” said McCann Finn. “The figures were soft, the first opening weekend, they weren’t amazing. Less than 9% of the box office was the opening weekend. But cinemas gave it that chance to find an audience.

“Once people got into the cinema, the word of mouth was amazing. We needed a high enough quantity of people to see that in the first three to five days to give it that chance.”

Biggest surprise 

An Cailín Ciúin, which is Ireland’s entry for the best international feature at the Oscars, is the story of a young girl from a neglected background in 1980s Ireland. Over the course of one memorable and formative summer, she is sent to stay with relatives.

It made its world premiere at the Berlinale where it was won the best film award for the Generation Kplus strand. It also won eight awards at the Irish Film and Television Awards (IFTAs), including best film and best actress for its 12-year-old lead, Catherine Clinch.

Adapted from the novel by Claire Keegan, the film is the feature film debut of Bairéad and producer, Cleona Ní Chrualaoi of Inscéal. It was funded by Screen Ireland, TG4 and the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland as part of the Cine4 scheme.

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The film is the highest-grossing Irish-language film of all time. The Irish-UK box-office breakdown is 70%-30%, though it was much closer during initial release. “It just held on much longer over here,” said McCann Finn.

In Ireland, it has become the best-performing film not in the English language since Parasite in 2020 and doubled its locations following the opening week. Midweek throughout release has been traditionally stronger, while there has been a large interest from school-group attendances.

The release came following a strong run of success for films in the Irish language, including Famine-set thriller Arracht; Black ’47, also set during the Famine; and the biopic of sean-nos singer Joe Heaney, Song Of Granite.

“The biggest surprise has been how cross-generational it has been,” said McCann Finn. “At the very beginning, what we were hearing from cinemas was it was bringing back older audiences.

“But also we were hearing stories of people bringing their children to it and watching it as a family. It was a core audience of independent film fans, plus the Irish-language audience which was always really important to us. To expand (to wider audiences), it was definitely feedback.”

Super, the offshoot of Parasite producer and distributor Neon, acquired An Cailín Ciúin for the US last month, with a release date not yet set. Bankside Films handles international sales. 

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