David Burke, general manager, Universal Pictures International Ireland, talks to Patricia Danaher about what works in the territory
What are the quirks of the Irish distribution sector and box office?
Irish cinema admissions are among the highest in Europe, with about 4.3 visits per year - the Dublin average is more than seven visits per year - in comparison with the UK’s 2.8 visits per year. The Republic generally accounts for 12%-15% of the total UK and -Ireland box office but on some titles it can account for up to 25%-30%. -Cinema exhibition is mainly in the hands of the independent sector; while UK-based circuits do have major representation here, independent exhibitors account for over 70% of the market.
How do Irish audiences differ in their tastes from the British?
US films - particularly comedies - tend to perform disproportionately better in Ireland. Irish audiences seem to be more in tune with the American sense of humour than the British. This might be to do with the fact that terrestrial Irish TV carries a lot of US imports.
Which films worked or disappointed in Ireland in 2009 compared with the UK?
Highlighting the point about the popularity of comedies, The Hangover was the number one film in Ireland last year whereas in the UK it was at number eight. Comedies that didn’t make it into the UK top 10 have had a strong presence in the Irish top 10, including Brüno, The Proposaland Marley & Me.
Which indie distributors are buying theatrical rights solely for Ireland?
Eclipse Pictures and Element Pictures Distribution.
Which events do Irish distributors, including the Irish arms of British and studio distributors, use to market their films to Irish audiences?
We have worked with the various main film festivals, including Dublin, Cork and Galway. We have also worked with various awards bodies including the Irish Film & Television Academy (Ifta) and the Meteor music awards, where we have leveraged nominations and talent appearances to help market our films.
A standout experience in the last few years was opening the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival with Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges, which acted as a platform to launch the theatrical release of the film. It went on to become Colin Farrell’s highest grossing release in Ireland.
Are the Irish festivals helpful?
Absolutely. If the release date fits, then the Dublin, Galway and Cork film festivals can be very helpful. Each is a national event that attracts significant media coverage as well as a loyal audience of smart film-goers. These festivals can provide the opportunity for international and UK press coverage. They offer a fantastic springboard for launching an Irish marketing campaign.
Ultimately, given the relatively small size of the Republic, positive word of mouth (especially amplified by online social media) travels quickly and can serve to strengthen your marketing -campaign.
Do events such as the Baftas make any impression on Irish audiences?
Irish audiences are very informed and aware of the Baftas and of course our own Iftas. This is partly because each event is televised. The nominations receive coverage in the national media, while distributors leveraging the nominations in the press and TV ads also make an impression.
The BBC broadcast of Bafta - with almost 80% of households having access to digital and cable TV - ensures that the majority of Irish audiences can see it. Ifta is a with national broadcaster RTE where it can expect to attract up to 10% of the audience.