But number of pics drops to new low

Inward investment into U.K. film production hit a record £669.6 million ($1.14 billion) in the first half of 2011, even though the number of movies shooting fell to a new low.

Just nine films, down from 14 in the same period last year, accounted for a 16% rise in inward investment, with average budgets topping $100 million for the first time, according to the British Film Institute.

The major U.S.-backed projects that started in the period were “Jack the Giant Killer,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” “Dark Shadows,” “Clash of the Titans 2″ and “Gravity” from Warner, “Prometheus” from Fox, “World War Z” from Paramount, “47 Ronin” from Universal and “Gambit” from CBS Films.

Domestic British filmmaking fell to its lowest level since records began in 2003. Just 20 projects started production at a cost of $63.3 million. Key titles include “The Iron Lady,” “The Inbetweeners Movie” and “Cockneys vs Zombies.” Only co-productions increased in volume, with 17 projects generating U.K. expenditure of $53.6 million, the highest tally for three years.

As a result, the overall figure for U.K.-based production expenditure reached $1.26 billion, up 10% from 2010 and only 2% below the record high of 2009.

But the total number of films was just 46, significantly down from the previous low of 61 in the first half of 2010.

For the first time, the BFI has also gathered information about films costing under $800,000. Some 53 micro-budget films shot at a combined cost of $9.6 million.

The half-year figures were compiled by the BFI’s research and statistics unit, previously part of the U.K. Film Council, and were published alongside the BFI’s 2011 Statistical Yearbook, which provides an exhaustive account of the U.K. film market in 2010.Among other highlights: Public funding for film increased 4% to $433 million in 2010, including $154 million from the film tax credit; cinema admissions fell 2% to 169.2 million in 2010, but box office rose 5% to a record $1.61 billion; British films (including those backed by Hollywood studios) took a 24% share, up from 17% in 2009; admissions rose 0.7% in the first half, and U.K. share reached 32.3%, largely thanks to “The King’s Speech.”

DVD sales fell 11% in 2010, but were still the largest revenue source for films, with a total value of $2.11 billion. The film rental market totalled $244 million, with 56% of the total 63 million rental transactions carried out online.

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