Despite the looming specter of Brexit, the UK production business continues to drive strong numbers — even if preliminary statistics released by the BFI today do not all constitute new records. Film and high-end TV production spend combined exceeded £3.1B ($4B) in 2018. Television saw the bigger increases, repping £1.173B ($1.53B) of the total for a 4% hike on 2017 and the highest level since the tax credit was introduced in 2013. Film production spend was £1.924B ($2.51B), the 2nd best score on record. The figures were released today as part of the BFI’s annual statistics report which also covers box office.
Inward investment, with the U.S. a key producing partner for the UK, was £795M on high-end TV and £1.628B on features. Significantly, three of the top box office draws locally in 2018 were made in Britain: Disney/Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War (£70.8M), Universal’s Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (£65.5M) and Fox’s Bohemian Rhapsody (£52M). Nine of the Top 20 performing movies were UK/U.S. productions (10 including Sony’s Peter Rabbit which was Aus/U.S./UK).
The indie sector had a strong year with 11.7% of the overall box office, a 2% jump on 2017. The top grossers were Working Title/Universal’s Darkest Hour and Johnny English Strikes Again; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, a co-fi between Film4 and Fox Searchlight (they have a similar deal on this year’s multi-Oscar nominee The Favourite); and Studiocanal’s Early Man. When factoring in UK-made, studio-backed films (think Mamma Mia! 2, Bohemian Rhapsody, Mary Poppins Returns and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes Of Grindelwald), the full UK market share increases to 44.8%, the highest since records began.
British (and Republic of Ireland) turnstiles saw their highest level of ticket sales since 1970, totaling 177M. That’s notable given somewhat flat results elsewhere and a malaise in Germany and Italy (along with the English football team having advanced far into last summer’s World Cup). Revenues were £1.387B, a slight increase from 2017 and better than early January estimates.
Undeniably, the UK remains a world-leading center for film and TV production, and is the No. 3 overseas box office market behind China and Japan. However, there is hand-wringing in international circles about what the looming exit from the European Union will mean to the industry. Among the chief concerns are the UK’s continued access to EU funding programs and the continued free movement of industry workers.
The 51 major inward investment films that were based in the UK spent £1.6B in 2018, slightly down on the interim 2017 figure. Whether that’s a sign of a trend is not yet clear. There’s a lot of money going towards TV and there has been an increase in studio cost-consciousness overall. Consolidated figures for 2018, which should boost the numbers, will be published later this year.
Films made in the UK in 2018 and releasing in 2019/2020 include major studio productions like Disney’s Star Wars Episode IX and Artemis Fowl; Paramount’s Rocketman; Universal’s The Voyage Of Doctor Dolittle, Hobbs And Shaw and Downton Abbey; Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman 1984 and Pokemon: Detective Pikachu; and Sony’s Men In Black International and Spider-Man: Far From Home. Indie titles on deck include Danny Boyle’s All You Need Is Love; Gurinder Chadha’s Sundance charmer Blinded By The Light; Romola Garai’s Outside; Rupert Goold’s Judy; Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour; Marc Munden’s The Secret Garden; Billie Piper’s Rare Beasts; and Richard Starzak’s Shaun The Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.
Movies to shoot this year include the new James Bond film, Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow, Fox’s Kingsman: The Great Game and Universal’s 1917.
Digging deeper into the 2018 stats, 131 films were UK productions with a total interim spend of £295.3M, up 17% from the previous year. Spend on the 20 UK co-productions that started up in 2018 is down to £24M from £29.4M in the preliminary figures.
In high-end TV, 119 productions were made in the UK in 2018, 55 of which were domestic with a £378M spend (+19% from 2017’s consolidated figures). The 64 inward investment and co-productions spent £794.5M, a 16% increase on the interim figure from 2017 (which was across a fewer 49 productions). Headed into production this year are such dramas as The War Of The Worlds, Dracula, Alex Rider and Outlander, which has been based in Scotland since 2013.
Shows made in Britain in 2018 include The Crown, The ABC Murders, Black Mirror, Call The Midwife, Catherine The Great, The Durrells, His Dark Materials, Luther, The Little Drummer Girl, Les Misérables, Pennyworth, The Rook, The Spanish Princess, The Trial of Christine Keeler, Torville & Dean, The War of the Worlds, Four Weddings And A Funeral and The Witcher.
BFI CEO Amanda Nevill says, “In a time of seismic change, today’s figures prove that film and television are thriving, a vital creative industry that is outstripping other sectors… We remain one of the most in-demand places in the world to create moving image content. The benefits are being felt UK-wide with production expanding in the nations and regions, boosting the economy, building skills, creating jobs and giving opportunities for people of all backgrounds to join our industry. Film is a global business and our creativity and talent remain one of the UK’s most potent exports as we navigate new relationships internationally. Audiences are increasingly watching film and television on a variety of platforms and at the same time are going to the cinema more than ever. Such a healthy market share for independent UK films suggests that audiences’ appreciation for home grown stories, as well as big global blockbusters, is on the rise.”
Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission and Film London, adds, “It is hugely rewarding to see today’s figures reflecting the UK’s flourishing screen sectors. Film and high-end TV are big business and year after year we are privileged to welcome inward investment productions to every region and nation of the UK, drawn here by our global reputation as a leading center for world-class talent, facilities and technical expertise. This demand, and our collective success in consistently delivering at the highest level, ensures we are able to continue driving economic growth and job creation, which in turn provides training opportunities for talent from every background.”