BFI stats: Higher average ticket prices boost 2017 box office takings

British and Irish cinemas took a record £1.38bn in ticket sales in 2017, according to the latest figures released by the BFI.

Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk was one of four British-made films in the UK and Ireland 2017 Box Office Top 5

171 million tickets were sold last year, compared with 168 million in 2016, which brought in a total of £1.23bn, seeing the average ticket price in the UK and the Irish Republic rising from £7.32 to £8.07 – a 10% increase over the year, with inflation running at just 3%.

The increased average price could be partly attributable to the success of Dunkirk, a film that was shot – and shown – on IMAX, which draws a higher ticket price. Taking nearly £57m at the box office last year, Christopher Nolan’s wartime epic was the third highest earner of the year, after Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘s £81m (and counting) and Beauty and the Beast’s £72m. With Despicable Me 3 in fourth place, followed by Paddington 2, four out of the top five earners were shot in the UK, continuing a pattern of inward investment which followed the drop in the pound, after the Brexit vote.

With the American dollar weakening, the UK’s advantage could soften this year, but 2017’s inward investment was a record £1.69bn, 23% up on 2016’s figure.

This formed the bulk of the £1.9bn total spend on film production in the UK last year, another record, 12% more than in 2016.

Major films including Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, David Yates’ Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 2 and Christopher McQuarrie’s Mission Impossible 6, which boosted production figures in 2017 are likely to help the box office takings over the coming year.

There were similar boosts to what are known as high-end TV productions, which saw a record £684m of foreign money contributing to the highest ever total production spend in the sector of £938m.

The Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries, Margot James, said the figures showed the UK to be a “creative powerhouse for developing many award-winning films and shows enjoyed by millions globally. We have world-class studios, a talented workforce and highly competitive tax reliefs, and these fantastic stats show investment in our screen industries is booming.”

“We have a consistently growing industry, and doing so at speed – up 11% from last year and outstripping most other sectors,” boasted the BFI’s CEO Amanda Nevill. “Productions such as Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Paddington 2 and Game of Thrones deliver new employment opportunities for everyone UK-wide, with every conceivable skill required, from special effects designers to costumiers, accountants and drivers. What’s more it creates the most potent export to showcase the UK and our innate creativity and is a powerful and timely reminder of the UK as a major global player.”

The figures were also welcomed by the head of the British Film Commission, Adrian Wootton, who said, “Whether producing lavish period dramas or fantasy epics, every corner of the UK is delivering at the highest level, and our success ultimately translates to economic growth, job creation and training opportunities.” But he also acknowledged that global competition remained fierce and the landscape is continuing to shift, urging the UK industry not to rest on its laurels.