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U says ‘Father’ mother of all films from Ireland

Universal’s “In the Name of the Father,” the Irish-set, fact-based drama nominated for seven Academy Awards, has hit a nerve and box office gold in the Republic of Ireland. It has grossed $ 3,207,911 since its opening Dec. 26 to become the all-time Irish theatrical champ, according to the studio.

However, a spokesman at Beacon Pictures, which made “The Commitments,” said UIP –“Father’s” foreign distrib — and Universal’s claim may be a tad premature. He said he believed “The Commitments” had earned close to $ 4 million in Ireland.

“Schindler’s List,” Universal’s other best picture nominee, opened in Japan Saturday with 51 prints and a screen average of more than $ 19,000. The Japanese launch was considered vital in testing its appeal for territories where the subject matter was deemed remote. Both box office and critical response were extremely strong.

The Holocaust drama faces very different challenges with openings this week in Germany, Poland and Israel.

A trio of Columbia TriStar Intl. releases have surpassed domestic box office performance. “Striking Distance,” the Bruce Willis thriller which grossed $ 23.8 million in the U.S., has almost doubled that in foreign. While star-driven action films traditionally perform better overseas, a studio spokesman said “Distance’s” performance, particularly in the Far East, had exceeded all expectations.

The film has yet to open in Spain, Italy and the U.K.

Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” released domestically by Fox, is nearing $ 40 million internationally ($ 35.7 million domestic) with Columbia TriStar Film Distribution Intl. territories grossing $ 32 million.

The Richard Gere-Lena Olin drama, “Mr. Jones,” provided the starkest contrast between domestic/foreign grosses. The U.S. release via TriStar was considered pretty much a bust with a box office of $ 8.3 million. It’s pulled in more than $ 20 million in oreign markets.

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