Siobhan Farrell, owner and managing director of Dublin-based distributor Eclipse Pictures, has an advantage independents in other parts of Europe don’t share: Irish audiences are among the continent’s most active cinemagoers, with more than 4.3 admissions per capita each year.

Gross box office for the Republic of Ireland was more than $185 million in 2008, demonstrating, Farrell says, “a healthy appetite for both U.S. studio pictures and European cinema.”

That doesn’t mean she can afford to be complacent about attracting audiences to the sort of films she likes: “Smart, inventive, authentic films with heart and flair” that are “inspired by original storytelling and new dynamic vision.”

Eclipse Pictures has a long-standing relationship with Icon Film Distribution and is its exclusive distributor in Ireland, releasing such pics as “Looking for Eric,” “The Passion of the Christ” and “La Vie en Rose.”  EP also releases films of Irish interest such as “Fifty Dead Men Walking” for Metrodome

As Irish cinemas continue to invest in new facilities, exhibitors — many of them independents themselves — are increasingly looking for more diverse programming, Farrell says.

“In effect, European cinema is moving beyond arthouse to the mainstream,” she says.

Reaching an “increasingly sophisticated audience” means using established and novel means of advertising, she adds.

“We support our releases with marketing campaigns consisting of TV, outdoor and press advertising. Given the small size of a city like Dublin, word of mouth is crucial in getting audiences into theaters. To kickstart positive word of mouth, we engage with online partners — particularly with social networks and local sites — in hosting screenings and exclusive content.”