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その映画は日本で初めて公開された。

I think this means:

This movie was first released in Japan.

However, I was wondering if it could be both understood as "The first release of this movie happened in Japan" (it wasn't released anywhere else before) and "In Japan, this was the first time this movie was released" (it may have been released before in other countries).

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  • FWIW, I instinctively understood this as “This is the first time this movie has been released in Japan.” – deceze Oct 13 '18 at 16:15
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その映画は日本で初めて公開された。

This Japanese sentence is ambiguous. Still, if there is no context at all, I would probably take it as the former, "The first release of this movie happened in Japan". If it means the latter, it tends to be その映画は日本で初めて公開された with the contrast marker は. This は is similar to bringing "in Japan" to the beginning of the sentence. It turns "this movie was first released in Japan", which I think is equally ambiguous, to "In Japan, this move was first released".

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