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Country Focus: UK

Mixed fortunes for UK film industry in 2009 - Film Production Report 2009


- The UK film industry is weathering the recession well, with record box office figures, record inward investment, and UK independent films at their most popular for a decade. But challenges remain for the financing of domestic production and co-production. Read the report.

The UK film industry continued to weather the global recession well in 2009:
• second best production year on record (total spend of £956.9m, 56% higher than 2008)
• highest ever level of inward investment (£752.7m, which has more than doubled year on year and increased by £20m on the record 2003 figures)
• level of independent film production culturally specific to the UK continues at a fairly consistent level compared to recent years, with 71 films made in 2009 (down slightly from 77 films in 2008), spending a total £169.2m
• UK cinema admissions at their highest level since 2002 (173.5m and the box office exceeding £1bn for the first time)
• and independent UK films taking their largest market share in a decade (8.5% of UK box office).

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The number of co-productions remains stable at 22, but this figure remains significantly lower than the high of 106 in 2003. This is largely a function of the one flaw in the otherwise excellent film tax credit which disincentivises UK participation in co-productions by focusing tax relief on production spend made on the ground in the UK.

The overall market share of UK films (which includes both UK independent and UK films produced with US backing) was 16.5% in 2009, with independent UK films taking an 8.5% share, which is the highest figure of the decade, and comes on the back of successful titles such as Slumdog Millionaire, St Trinian's 2: The Legend of Fritton's Gold, and In the Loop.

The record-breaking box office figures come after a busy and very successful year at UK cinemas for international blockbusters (such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and The Hangover), whilst 2009 can also be seen as the year of 3D, with 3 of the year's top 5 films in 3D (Avatar, Ice Age 3, and Up).

Sion Simon, Minister for the Creative Industries, said: "Looking at today's figures it's hard to imagine that there was a time not so long ago that UK production was in the doldrums and cinema-going was under threat from new forms of home entertainment. We are now looking at superb production statistics and incredibly buoyant box office receipts, which come at a time when film is poised to make its next big leap into the world of 3D and digital screens, with all the possibilities that those developments bring. It should, of course, be remembered that none of this success happens by chance. Strong and consistent investment by Government over this decade has helped to give UK film the economic and cultural prominence it deserves. And we should be incredibly proud of the expertise, talent and facilities that continue to make the UK a top choice for overseas producers."

John Woodward, Chief Executive Officer of the UK Film Council, said that these figures show a robust UK film industry, adding: "The UK film industry is weathering the recession well. Taken together, these box office and inward investment numbers show how film in the UK has moved from the margins back to the mainstream, helping sustain jobs and promote the UK's place on the international stage. British cinema-goers are voting with their feet – they want to see big event movies, many of which depend on outstanding British talent and are made in the UK thanks to our reliable film tax credit. In addition, what is particularly encouraging is that the public appetite for low budget independently-produced British films is rising once again despite the blockbuster phenomenon. So at a time when film budgets are being squeezed and production finance is very hard to raise, it's important to realise that many of these films are supported through public subsidy from the UK Film Council, BBC Films and Film4. The case for continued public support for film has therefore never been stronger."

Read the full report: pdf Film production in the UK 2009

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