Brits back local film biz

BFI report finds wide-spread support for U.K. pix

LONDON — The high value that the U.K. public places on the cultural importance of film is revealed in market research published Friday by the British Film Institute.

According to the report, titled “Opening Our Eyes: how film contributes to the culture of the U.K.,” 84% of Brits say they are interested in film.

That’s behind TV and U.K. news, with 88% apiece, but ahead of foreign news (81%), restaurants (80%), the countryside (80%), pop and rock music (69%), literature (67%), politics (62%), museums (59%), pubs and clubs (53%), watching and playing sport (52% and 51% respectively), theater (50%), art (46%), celebrities (32%) and religion (32%).

There is even more support for specifically British films, with 88% of people saying they think local movies are important, and 78% in favor of public funding for U.K. filmmaking through the National Lottery.

BFI chief exec Amanda Nevill commented, “This report proves that film is at the heart of our cultural life. Understanding, appreciating and assessing its cultural contribution is essential to forward-looking public policy and will guide our funding priorities for film.”

The BFI took over from the U.K. Film Council in April as the body responsible for investing lottery coin in film production.

Until recently, it was widely assumed within the U.K. film industry that local cinema audiences regarded the label “British film” as a negative. However, according to the BFI research, half of respondents said they were more likely to watch a film if it is British; 86% said they had seen a British film in the past year; and more than half said there are too few British films in cinemas and on TV.

A remarkable 95% said that British films are “well made,” and 94% said they are “well acted.”

This public approval is borne out by U.K. box office results in 2011, with British films occupying the top three positions — “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Inbetweeners Movie.”

Perhaps surprisingly, the film identified by the largest numbers of respondents as having a significant effort on U.K. society was “Trainspotting,” followed by “The Full Monty,” “East Is East,” “Billy Elliot,” “The King’s Speech,” “This Is England,” “Cathy Come Home,” “Brassed Off,” “Slumdog Millionaire” and “Kidulthood.”

Out of all films, British and non-British, “The King’s Speech” was most frequently mentioned as having a personal effect on people, followed by “Schindler’s List,” “Avatar,” “Slumdog Millionaire,” “Titanic” and “The Shawshank Redemption.”

The research, which polled more than 2,000 people, was carried out for the BFI in February 2011 by Northern Alliance and Ipsos.

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