BVI's Starsky & Hutch squared up to Mel Gibson's The Passion Of The Christ and took the round one opening weekend in cinemas in the Republic of Ireland.

Given the reported demand for The Passion in the territory - Irish distribution company Eclipse Pictures, which is handling the local release of the film for Icon UK, had to secure additional prints for the Irish release, such was the demand for the picture from exhibitors - it is still unclear whether alleged widespread piracy was responsible for the subdued turnout.

Either way, the relative underperformance of The Passion will come as a shock to many observers, especially as it is in the predominantly Catholic Republic of Ireland - and may even have an effect on the marketing and release strategies of other markets.

However, it must be noted that The Passion stands to draw a wider demographic during next week and may yet provide a renewed challenge for the top position across the first full week of counting.

Starsky And Hutch took Euros 375,506 for the weekend from 65 prints while The Passion came in a close second with Euros 336,109 from 47 prints. Both films are rated 15PG, somewhat controversially in the case of Gibson's film.

While Starsky & Hutch scored the second highest opening weekend of the year to date (after BVI's own Scary Movie 3), its screen average was a somewhat disappointing Euros 5,777.

The Passion has the sixth highest opening weekend of the year but has the third highest opening screen average with Euros 7,307.