2015 set new UK box office record as US franchises boost production

Box office takings in UK cinemas rose to a record £1.24 billion last year, an increase of 17% on 2014, on a 9% rise in admissions to nearly 172 million, indicating that ticket prices are on an upward trend.

Tom Hardy as both of the Kray Twins in Legend
Tom Hardy as both of the Kray Twins in Legend

The BFI’s annual breakdown of UK film industry statistics also shows that despite the box office performance being driven by studio franchise films, such as SPECTRE and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, independent British films managed to secure 11% of the total takings, which is the third best performance by the sector on record. The best performing UK independent films were Tom Hardy’s Krays biopic Legend, which took a total of £18.4 million at the box office, followed by The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’s £16 million. A total of eight indies took more than £5 million, including the Aardman animation Shaun The Sheep, The Lady in the Van and Suffragette. Asif Kapadia’s Oscar-nominated Amy was the second highest grossing non-concert documentary at the UK box office, with nearly £3.8 million in ticket sales.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was well clear at the top of the UK Box Office chart
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was well clear at the top of the UK Box Office chart

The highest earners by far, though, were the blockbusters, with Star Wars taking £114 million by the end of the year, followed by SPECTRE‘s £95 million, with both continuing to sell tickets well into 2016. Jurassic World and Avengers: Age of Ultron were third and fourth, with £64 million and £48 million respectively. Minions was close behind, followed by Inside Out. Legend, while being the highest grossing independent film with British involvement, came only seventeenth and was the only one in the top twenty.

The figures also look at the amount spent on production in the UK; total spend on film-making last year, at £1.41 billion, was the second highest on record. The BFI says the strength of film production in the UK is testament to the continuing appeal of “studios, facilities, locations, crews and the supportive fiscal environment created by the UK film tax relief.”

Of the £1.41 billion pounds spent in the UK in 2015, £1.18 billion of that came from outside the UK and was spent on a total of 47 films, including Disney’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Fox’s Assassin’s Creed and Universal’s The Huntsman. The BFI says major international films being shot in the UK create jobs and contribute to the economy, with every pound spent generating £12.50.

During the same period, 124 domestic films were produced in the UK, costing between them £198 million. These included Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom, Gurinder Chadha’s Viceroy’s House and Notes on Blindness, by writer/directors Peter Middleton and James Spinney, which has just premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.

In addition to the foreign productions and fully UK funded projects, there were 30 co-productions involving British companies, which spent between them £35 million in the UK. They included Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl and Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake.

The statistics also revealed a 20% increase in spending on what is regarded as High End Television production in the UK, with 82 programmes spending a total of £759 million. These included Game of Thrones, Outlander Season 2 and The Night Manager.

The chief executive of the BFI, Amanda Nevill, said the figures showed that a Golden Age of British film was continuing and underlined film’s important contribution to the UK economy. “It’s significant that a wide range of fantastic British independent films won the hearts and minds of audiences in a hugely competitive year, but it’s clear that the market is still tough for the makers and distributors of independent and specialised films – something the BFI is seeking to address,” she added.