Brits on spending spree

Production of local movies was up to $186 mil

Film production spending in the U.K. rose 76% to £486 million ($915 million) in the first half of 2006, according to figures released by the U.K. Film Council.

Inward investment — typically, big-budget U.S. studio movies shooting in Blighty — spurted 71% to $578 million, thanks to films such as “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix” and “Miss Potter.” But the actual number of these productions fell to 11, down from 12 in the same period last year.

Production of local movies was up 78% to $186 million, with the number of films up from 16 to 23. And the value of co-productions nearly doubled to $153 million, although the number of projects increased only from 32 to 36.

The most likely reason for this mini-boom: Many producers were rushing to get films into production before the demise of the U.K.’s former film tax break regs in April.

British Film Commissioner Steve Norris said, “This upturn in business will also ultimately benefit U.K. audiences with more British films made and released.”

But U.K. market share for British movies in the first seven months of 2006 is limping along at just over 12% — with half of that thanks to “The Da Vinci Code,” which was legally classed as a British film for tax purposes. Without that pic, market share stands at just 6.5%.

The U.K. Film Council never dwells on such negatives, however, preferring to trumpet research showing six of the top 10 films at the worldwide box office from 2001 to 2005 were based on British source material.

The 20 biggest movies based on British material grossed almost $11 billion worldwide during that period.

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