Cinema audiences in the UK and the Irish Republic spent more than a billion pounds to see films released in 2013. It’s the third year in a row that the figure has been passed. With 165.5 million tickets sold, there were 4% fewer cinema visits than the previous year, but with slightly higher ticket prices, the total money taken, was down by only 1%.
The most successful film of the past year has been Despicable Me 2, which had taken nearly £47.5 million until 19th January this year, and it’s still in release. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, which is also still available on the big screen, is the second highest grossing film of the year, with more than £41.5 million. Les Misérables was the most successful British film of 2013, taking nearly £41 million at the box office in the UK and Ireland. Iron Man 3 and Frozen were 4th and 5th on the list of the highest earning films. A total of twelve features took more than £25 million, including Monsters University, Man of Steel, Gravity and The Croods. The most successful independent British film was Philomena, which has, so far, nearly taken £11 million. Dustin Hoffman’s directorial debut Quartet came second on that list, followed by I Give It A Year and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, which each took more than £6 million.
But only 6% of the theatrical market share went to British independent films and only 15.5% to American backed UK films, meaning that there were fewer UK-productions in cinemas than in any year since 2009. The Chief Executive of the BFI, Amanda Nevill, said there was still work to be done to grow audiences for British films at home. She said this was “an economic and cultural imperative for the future success of British film.”
But new figures from the BFI show that while there were fewer opportunities to see British films, investment in UK productions remained buoyant last year. After a weaker year in 2012, films that started principal photography in the UK last year brought £1,075 million into the UK economy. Nearly 81% of that figure came from outside the UK. By contrast, although less money was spent in total last year, 2012 was a better year for domestic UK features, when only 66% of the money spent came from inward investment.
The Chancellor George Osborne said the figures highlighted the valuable cultural and economic contribution that the creative industries make to the UK. “These fast growing sectors re creating jobs across the country and each new job means security for another family,” he said, pledging to build on the success by encouraging more films and TV programmes to be made in Britain. The BFI figures show that new tax reliefs for high-end TV, which have been in place for nine months, have encouraged £276 million to be spent in the UK. Game of Thrones is one of the TV shows to benefit.
With major Hollywood studio films such as Jupiter Ascending, Cinderella, Exodus, Monuments Men and Far From the Madding Crowd all being shot in the UK in 2013, the BFI says the momentum for big budget inward investment will continue in the year ahead with the new Star Wars film among the highest profile production.
There are a number of explanations for the high level of American money being involved in film production in the UK, from the high cost of shooting in California to the favourable tax incentives offered in Britain and the wealth of talented UK film-makers. But one thing working against Britain is that its production facilities are filling up. With Pinewood struggling to get its expansion plans passed the local authority planners in Buckinghamshire, the studio’s Director of Strategy and Communications, Andrew Smith, warned that many Hollywood producers were already turning to facilities in Dubai and China. He told UK Screen that there was an overwhelming need for more capacity in the UK. The most recent public inquiry into Pinewood’s second set of proposals will report by the middle of April, more than a year after the previous application was rejected by the Communities Secretary Eric Pickles.