The strength of the UK’s production sector — from studio facilities to skilled crews and the film and TV tax credits available — drove overall spend on film to a record £1.6B ($2B) in 2016. Of that, £1.35B ($1.7B) came in the form of inward investment, an 18% increase on 2015. In the TV sector, foreign productions coming in spent £478M ($603M), also a record. The figures were released today as part of the BFI’s annual statistics report which also covers box office.
While Hollywood took a hit in the latter half of 2016, after the Brexit vote sent the pound plummeting, local currency turnstile returns were £1.227B, the 2nd highest year on record. In further testament to the health of the UK’s production business, the top-three grossing pics — Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (£64.3M), Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (£54.3M) and Bridget Jones’s Baby (£48.2M) — were all made in Britain. Studio-backed UK-made films had a 27.5% share of the box office.
The top-grossing UK indies were Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie (£16M), Eddie The Eagle and Dad’s Army (£8.7M each). UK indies picked up 7.4% of the overall box office.
Total ticket sales for the UK and the Republic of Ireland were worth £1.33B (up 1.5% on 2015), although admissions showed a 2% dip.
The major inward investment across film came from such pics as Disney/Lucasfilm’s Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, Warner Bros’ Christopher Nolan WWII title Dunkirk and WB’s Justice League. The latter taking advantage of Warner’s Leavesden Studios while the Star Wars movies are set up at Pinewood.
Conversely, the 129 domestic UK films made in the UK in 2016 spent £206M, a drop of 8% on 2015. However, the BFI cautions that because of the lower budget nature of many indie titles, there is often a time-lag in data collection so the total number of films and UK production spend will likely be revised upwards.
With the continued lower level of the pound, the UK increasingly becomes more fiscally attractive. In a nod to Brexit, Minister for Digital and Culture, Matt Hancock, said today, “Britain remains open for business. With inward investment levels for film and television at new highs, we will continue to build on this tremendous success, forging a global Britain that remains the center for attracting and developing the world’s best creative talent.”
Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI, echoed that sentiment, “Today’s statistics show that UK film is open for business and our position as a global leader for film and TV production is stronger than ever… Nevertheless, as set out in our five year strategy BFI2022, there is much to be done to ensure British independent films are able to better capitalize on opportunities in this economically and creatively buoyant environment.”
There was also significant growth in spend from international high-end television production in 2016, with an 11% jump from 2014. Programs made in the UK in 2016 include the second season of Netflix’s The Crown and the seventh season of Game Of Thrones. These have been able to take advantage of the lucrative UK TV tax credit that was implemented in 2013.
If the continued growth has a downside, it’s that studio space has become an issue. There are several projects being examined to grow facilities and stages. Pinewood is expanding, while Extraordinary Studios is eyeing a Dorset outpost and London Mayor Sadiq Khan is looking at the possibility of a new film and TV studio in the capital.