Spending on film and high-end TV production in the UK reached a record of £3.62 billion in 2019, with just shy of £2 billion of that total going on 188 film productions, according to the latest figures from the BFI.
Inward investment in the sector – that’s money coming from outside the UK, either for foreign productions based in the UK or co-productions with UK companies – topped £3 billion for the first time.
The BFI says the figures show “the UK to be the world’s busiest production hub,” and demonstrates “the continued world-class excellence of UK talent, crews, VFX and production services, locations, the supportive fiscal environment created by the UK’s creative sector tax reliefs and the work of the British Film Commission with international producers.”
But the production spend on independent British films fell by 45% between 2018 and last year, to only £175 million.
The BFI’s annual statistics also look at box office takings and they show that UK independent productions delivered their highest share of cinema takings in the UK and Ireland for five years, with 13% of box office earnings last year going to films such as Downton Abbey, The Favourite, Yesterday, Stan & Ollie and Mary Queen of Scots; the BFI notes that many of the UK independent films produced last year focused on strong and independent women.
Three of the top five grossing films of last year were made in the UK; Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker between them took nearly £220m of the box office total of £1.254 billion, from 176 million admissions – both figures only slightly down on the 2018 figures.
The major studios are hoping for a bumper year, with films made in the UK last year that are due for release in 2020 including the Oscar-nominated 1917, Daniel Craig’s final outing as 007 in No Time To Die and Christopher Nolan’s time-travelling spy epic, Tenet.
The Minister for the Creative Industries, Nigel Adams, said the latest figures showed that the UK’s world-leading screen industries continued to thrive, attracting audiences all around the globe. “The increase in inward investment reflects the UK’s acclaimed reputation as a home for fantastic talent and creativity in our film and television sectors,” he added.
The outgoing head of the BFI, Amanda Nevill, said the figures showed an incredibly vibrant picture or a sector delivering billions to the economy and a wide spectrum of jobs all over the UK. “It’s great to see some of our greatest home-grown talent making big international pictures such as 1917. It also underlines the importance of ensuring that the independent sector, the lifeblood for this growing success, is properly supported.”
The head of the British Film Commission, Adrian Wootton, said the UK was continuing to meet the growing demand for content, studio space and world-class skills, talent and expertise. “It’s vital we continue to nurture and champion the exceptional talent across our screen industries; the BFC working with our public and private partners across the UK to seize the growth opportunities for nations and regions, putting inclusivity and sustainability at the heart of everything we do.”