Figures show UK film industry recovering well from pandemic

A new report from the BFI has highlighted the importance of tax reliefs to the UK Film and TV industry – both from the point of view of attracting investment and for raising revenue for the government – as well as highlighting a swift recovery after the lockdown, early in the pandemic.

Shows such as the BBC’s Peaky Blinders are driving high end TV production in the UK

In its Screen Business report, the BFI notes that between October 2020 and September 2021 spending on high-end TV productions totalled £4.14 billion, compared with £2.3 billion, just two years earlier.

During the same period, £1.8 billion was spent on film production in the UK, close to the figure 18/19 figure.

The BFI says major UK productions such as Game of Thrones, The Crown, Doctor Who and Peaky Blinders have continued to perform well across the world, while the big streamers, Netflix, Amazon and Apple are investing heavily in new UK content.

The latest figures show that Netflix alone spent £740 million on making 60 TV shows and films in the UK in 2020 and it’s recently decided to double the size of its UK base at Shepperton Studios. Amazon is bringing its Lord of the Rings TV series to the UK from New Zealand.

The government has given approval for the new Shinfield Studios near Reading (image: Scott Brownrigg)

And separately, there’s to be an influx of investment at a new studio facility in Wokingham in Berkshire, which has just received full planning permission from the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. This is confirmation of plans first proposed just before the pandemic.

Construction of Shinfield Studios, at Thames Valley Science Park near Reading, is to start immediately and a Disney production has been confirmed to start shooting there next year.

The BFI’s chief executive Ben Roberts said the UK’s screen industries had “bounced back faster than almost any other industry post-pandemic.” And he stressed that the UK had to stay on top of its game, by building a skilled workforce and increasing investment in areas where there are opportunities for growth.

The head of the British Film Commission, Adrian Wootton, said the UK had embarked on a new golden age for film and TV, providing unrivalled opportunities for the industry and the economy, stimulating long-term job creation and prosperity for the whole of the UK.

The increased investment is being put down to a tax relief scheme that was introduced for film-makers in 2007 and extended to big budget TV shows six years later.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the UK was home to some of the best creative talent in the world and said the TV and film industry drove hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions for the economy. “We’ve ensured the sector has had our support throughout the pandemic, with the furlough and self-employment schemes, and the £500 million Film and TV production Restart Scheme is now helping productions get back up and running,” he said.