The Eagle, directed by Glasgow-born Kevin Macdonald, was the closing night gala Sunday night for the growing Glasgow Film Festival.

Macdonald couldn’t attend the screening (as he is working on his Bob Marley documentary) but producer Duncan Kenworthy was on hand to present the film to the packed crowd at the Glasgow Film Theatre.

“Glasgow’s really the heart of our film, because about two-thirds of the film takes place above Hadrian’s Wall,” Kenworthy told the crowd. The cast and crew used Glasgow as a base when shooting in nearby locations. And Kenworthy noted: “It rained on us every day.”

Channing Tatum stars as a Roman soldier who travels to Scotland in search of his father’s missing legion. Scottish actor Jamie Bell plays the slave who accompanies him into dangerous territory.

After its US release and Saturday’s screening at the Dublin Film Festival, the film was making its UK premiere in Glasgow. Universal will release in late March across the UK.

Glasgow’s festival had admissions of 33,000 for the 2011 festival, a 10% rise on last year, co-director Allison Gardner told Screen. In all GFF, in its seventh year, offered more than 250 screenings and events.

The growing event is now the UK’s third-largest film festival after London and Edinburgh. Although Glasgow is focused on being an audience, rather than an industry, festival, it could be poised for more growth as Edinburgh changes its programming approach.

Highlights in Glasgow included the world premiere of David Mackenzie’s You Instead, a workshop with comic book legend Mark Millar, a FrightFest programme including Sundance hit Hobo With A Shotgun, a Mondo Morricone concert, youth and shorts festivals, and retrospectives devoted to Indian independent cinema, Meryl Streep and Ginger Rogers.

Guests included Anthony La Paglia for Balibo, Ken Loach and Rebecca O’Brien for Route Irish, Jim Loach for Oranges and Sunshine, Richard Ayoade for Submarine, and Harry Shearer for The Big Uneasy.

The inaugural Glasgow Short Film Festival Audience Award went to Stuart Elliott for The Pedestrian, while the jury’s award for best short film went to The Cage by Adrian Sitaru from Romania.