Quiet from the name, but a lot of fame. Colm Bairéad’s Irish-language coming-of-age film “An Cailin Ciúin” (“The Quiet Girl”) bowed at Berlinale earlier this year and has been an unstoppable force on the festival and awards circuit. It won top prizes at the Berlin, Dublin and Taipei film festivals and won the Irish Film and Television Awards. The film opens theatrically across Ireland and the UK in mid-May and the strength of its storytelling is such that it has cinema dates booked into early September, and will represent Ireland in the international feature category at the Oscars. Nell Roddy, co-founder of Ireland’s Break Out Films, which distributes the film in the country, and Jake Garriock, head of distribution strategy and group promotions at UK distributor Curzon, share the film’s journey. Variety.
Neil Roddy (Ireland Distribution)
When director Colm Barred and producer Cliona Ní Crullaoi first showed me and my business partner Robert McCann Finn “An Cailin Ciúin” (“The Quiet Girl”) in the middle of the pandemic in 2021, we were completely floored by its striking beauty, emotional depth and heartfelt sincerity. .
We founded Break Out Pictures to acquire titles that often required a bespoke theatrical release and, right from the start, we truly believed that audiences would embrace it as much as we did. After some initial meetings with Colm and Cliona to discuss our overall vision and passion for the film and wider release plans, we secured it for both Ireland and the UK. We did. The language feature “Arracht” in the fall of 2021), which we received through the new Cine4 scheme. (Cine4 is a new initiative by TG4, Screen Ireland and BAI in partnership to develop original feature films in the Irish language.)
Shortly after our acquisition, “An Cailín Ciúin” made history as the first Irish-language feature selected for Berlinale where it won the Grand Prix of the Generation Kplus international jury, creating quite a media storm in Ireland. After Berlin there was a lot of UK distribution interest but ultimately, we decided to partner with Curzon Film as we have always admired their work, ethos and passion for cinema.
After Berlin, we secured opening night at the Dublin International Film Festival, another historic first for an Irish-language film to open the festival. It went on to win the Audience Award and early reviews were phenomenal, five stars across the board – a sign of the international press reactions to come. Curzon and the Break Out teams worked very closely over the following weeks to create all marketing materials and set the overall strategy.
Choosing release dates is always difficult, especially post-pandemic in the flux of the theater calendar, but we felt we had to move early and open pre-cans and capitalize on all the recent festival buzz/awards and media profile. After much discussion, we decided to open with previews on May 12 in Ireland and May 13 in the UK. We always felt that if we could find a place to grow an audience the responses would be overwhelmingly positive and word of mouth would happen. very strong
The film’s cinematic visual beauty and the emotional pull of the lead character Kat were central to our positioning of the film and, together with Curzon, we created a suite of compelling marketing assets to position the film as a must-see theatrical experience. . In the weeks leading up to its Irish release there was more good news for the film as it won seven Irish Film and TV Awards, an incredible feat for any film but unheard of for a debut feature.
With the support of Screen Ireland for the Irish release, and co-ordinating the release with Curzon in the UK, we have increased the footprint of the cinema. Meanwhile, to maintain momentum from the festivals and build word of mouth, we pre-released several speaker screenings focused on key media, influencers, literary groups and Irish-language speakers. The feedback after the screening was overwhelmingly positive and gave us more confidence to open in just under 100 cinemas in both countries, the widest release ever for an Irish-language film.
Given the scale of the cinema footprint, which included multiple multiplex sites, we used a targeted grassroots campaign to leverage a more traditional marketing campaign that included a strong digital campaign, outdoor, print etc. The weather for the opening weekend was warm and sunny. And the box office was a little softer than we would have liked, but in a highly unusual trend, the midweek figures were high and this continued with the increase in the box office in weekend 2. During this time the support of the exhibition sector was important. Allow our cinema footprint and audience to grow.
Unsurprisingly, we saw from the social media reactions that “An Cailín Ciúin” really engaged with cross-generational audiences and for many people it was their first return to the cinema in years. The film quickly became the breakout hit Curzon had hoped for – a film of discovery and a cultural phenomenon not to be missed.
Releasing “An Cailín Ciúin” has been an incredibly supportive and rewarding experience with both the filmmakers and Curzon Film, as well as both Screen Ireland and Tg4 who have supported the film from the start. The box office is currently just shy of €900,000 ($918,000) — the previous record for an Irish-language film was “Arracht” at €160,000 — and is now in its 12th week with more bookings in cinemas, an unprecedented result for An independent film. A successful release in Ireland and the UK has helped open up new opportunities for international territories and hopefully now, it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world gets to see Colm’s quiet masterpiece.
Jake Garriock (UK distribution)
Our director of programming and distribution sales, Damien Spandley, met with Break Out Pictures in Berlin and briefed them on the film. Upon seeing it there, he immediately alerted our acquisitions team who fell in love with it as did the rest of our team. It was an interesting proposition because although the film is contained and intimate, it has a real cinematic feel to it. It was a competitive situation and when we met with Colm and Cleona, and Nell and Robert from Break Out Pictures to discuss ideas for the release, I think our passion for the film was clear.
There were a number of what we professionally call ‘distribution challenges’ – a first-time director, a big-name artist, not in the English language. But it also perfectly captures a moment in time in Irish history/culture, so we felt confident that it would connect with Irish audiences and many people with Irish connections across the UK when you have a committed group of people willing to act as cheerleaders. A movie, you have a chance to bring in a wider audience. Much of the film’s success, certainly in the UK, is the result of organic social media and word of mouth promotional effects.
The distribution deal was also unusual. Break out pictures were already attached for Ireland. Curzon usually takes all the rights for Britain and Ireland but in this case, it felt like a logical split. “Quiet Girl” was clearly going to be a different proposition in Britain than in Ireland. While working through the logistics it was decided that Break Out Pictures would take care of the theatrical for the entire island of Ireland. For the UK side, we wanted to release ‘Date & Date’ with Curzon Home Cinema, which is a great roll-out for us for arthouse and specialist titles. But across Ireland, multiplex sites had the opportunity to take the film wider.
Initially, we toyed with the idea of releasing a few weeks after the Irish release, to allow the buzz and news of the expected opening weekend box office results to cross the Irish Sea. But ultimately, it was decided that the cumulative effect of reviews, advertising and social media all running at the same time outweighed the benefits of such a plan.
One of the strengths we brought to the table was experience creating marketing materials that enhance specialist film and make it accessible to a wider audience. “Quiet Girl” offered an interesting challenge because of its subtlety and its reserved central character. The emotion of the piece is gathered through quietly moving moments and unspoken emotions. Our marketing team and trailer house HelloMozart, working with Break Out and the filmmakers, created something that captured the emotional arc of the film without losing its spell of simplicity.
Another advantage we were able to leverage for the film was our close contact with critics in the UK. We took care of the in-house release and encouraged key critics to attend early screenings of the film. At this point the film had opened in Berlin, Dublin and Glasgow, and was rewarded with IFTA nominations, so we were not without ammunition but we had also cultivated trust with critics to be able to present a film like “The Quiet Girl”. “It was very encouraging to see critics getting behind the film.
Colm and Cleona Ní Chrualaoi came to London on May 3rd and 4th and we held a special preview screening at the Curzon Bloomsbury. Fiona Shaw was kind enough to host and it was a collective effort to bring London-based Irish tastemakers. At this screening we realized we might have something special – there was audible sniffling and dry eyes as the credits rolled. The questions that followed were a mix of Irish voices and those not connected to Ireland. So we felt the film connected and the campaign was already working.
We opened in 29 sites in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland) and the film exceeded our already confident expectations. It was actually at a wider point of release on June 10 in the UK, and many sites have brought it back in time for the run. Bookings continue in the fourth month after release. It played at our Curzon Bloomsbury venue for an amazing nine weeks and has been the best showing at the Curzon Home Cinema so far this year.
With awards season at the end of the year, we will gear up again to work on the film. Hopefully, “Quiet Girl” will connect with voters as much as it does with viewers.
of variety “Inside the Release” lifts the curtain on successful international film releases, detailing the strategy, campaign and execution by the key architects of the film’s distribution that generated buzz at the box office.