Irish distribution company Eclipse Pictures, which is handling the Irish release of The Passion Of The Christ for Icon UK, has had to secure an additional 10 prints for the Irish release, such is the demand for the picture from exhibitors.

Of the 60 prints now available, approximately 50 will play sites in the Republic of Ireland from March 12 and the remainder will open in Northern Ireland to coincide with the UK release on March 26. Additional prints may be sought for the second week of release in the Republic if the level of business justifies it.

Eclipse managing director Niamh McCaul said the company originally believed that 50 prints would cover the film's release. But an unforeseen level of pressure from prayer groups and other adherents of various Christian denominations is responsible for lifting exhibitor demand in places that would seldom run a subtitled film.

The Passion Of The Christ will have the widest ever release for a subtitled film in Ireland. The previous record holder was Columbia-Tristar's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which opened on just two prints before widening out to 21 prints after two weeks on release.

Unprecedented requests to book out screenings, volunteer leafleting, and word of mouth is driving interest in The Passion to such an extent that Eclipse has opened a dedicated information line which directs callers to cinemas showing the film all over Ireland.

Eclipse has been running a comprehensive trailer campaign in cinemas with nearly 200 copies of the full trailer in circulation in the run up to the March 12 opening in the Republic. The TV campaign began on Mar 1 when two spots were taken during the edited Oscars highlights show on RTE television.

Given the level of free press coverage the film has been getting in the wake of its US opening, the company is now concentrating its marketing effort in other media such as radio and television where they hope to reach a younger audience. The film has a 15PG certificate from the Irish Film Censor.