In 2009, U.S. studios and other financiers based outside of Britain spent £752.7 million making UK-qualifying films. This is the biggest-ever amount of inward investment ever recorded. The year before overseas investors spent £356.8 million. Big Hollywood productions that shot in the UK last year included Robin Hood, Gulliver’s Travels, Clash of the Titans, Inception, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. Last year’s record inward investment helped push 2009’s production investment to £956.9 million, according to state film body the UK Film Council. This was a 56% increase on 2008’s £613 million.
But investment in wholly-British films though fell by 18% to £169.2 million, compared with £207.2 million the year before. Domestic UK titles that cranked up last year included Centurion, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang, Nowhere Boy, St Trinian’s II: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold, and Tamara Drewe.
The number of films either being made in Britain or involving UK producers remained flat at 125. The only increase came from foreign producers shooting in Britain. Last year five more inward-investment films started shooting, lifting the total number to 32.
British films carved out a 16.5% market share in 2009. Critics of the Film Council say that qualifying Hollywood blockbusters such as Harry Potter and Batman as British makes this statistic meaningless. In 2009 indie British releases accounted for 8.5% of the market, compared with 5.7% the year before.
British producers are also spending less money on indie films. Last year’s median budget for an indie film was £1.9 million compared with £3.5 million in 2004. Some say that this has been a long-overdue correction. Pathé’s Slumdog Millionaire was, not surprisingly, the best-performing indie film of 2009, grossing £31.2 million at the box office. Entertainment’s St Trinian’s II was in second place at £6.2 million. And E1 Films’ Christmas comedy Nativity! was third-ranked at £5.2 million.
And co-production investment also continued to fall from £48.9 million to £35 million last year. This is because of the way the UK tax break works: it onlly incentivises work done on British shores — not overseas. Producers have long complained that classic British-made films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Third Man and even Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet wouldn’t qualify under the current system. The Film Council is currently drawing up recommendations for reforming the tax credit.