Last month it took the international press at Cannes by storm. This week it was the turn of attendees at Cinema Expo in Amsterdam to fall under the spell of the Calendar Girls.

Constant guffaws, frequent applause and stifled bouts of tearful sniffing punctuated the morning screening of the gentle comedy-drama, about a middle-aged group of northern English women who strip for a charity calendar.

Introducing the feature, Daniel Battsek, senior vice-president of distribution and managing director of Buena Vista International UK, which developed and backed the Harbour Pictures production, told the audience that many had begun to rename the film as "the female Full Monty", adding: "I believe it has the potential to connect with audiences worldwide."

Mark Zoradi, president of Buena Vista International, added a North American seal of approval by saying that Calendar Girls will now roll out in the US on Xmas Day. "If they put it on that day or in that zone then it means they have great faith in it."

After the screening Battsek told Screen International: "You never want to pre-judge these things, but you can see from this screening here that it's a British film but that it has got universal themes that people everywhere can relate to."

A straw poll of industry delegates from distribution, exhibition and institutional firms in Belgium, Poland and Italy after the screening revealed that Calendar Girls' appeal would indeed stretch beyond English-language territories - even if they were unfamiliar with the Women's Institute, the ultra-conservative female organisation central to the story.

Produced by Nick Barton and Suzanne Mackie at Harbour, and directed by Nigel Cole (Saving Grace), the film is the third to emerge from BVI's UK office under its comedy label after High Heels, Low Lives and Hope Springs. Battsek reserved particular praise for Kristin Jones, the label's head of development for bringing the project to the table. "She is central to the whole process."