British films generate highest B.O. ever

LONDON — The British film industry pulled in record levels of inward investment for the U.K. economy in 2011 while box office takings topped £1 billion ($1.55 billion) for the first time, according to the British Film Institute’s Statistical Yearbook, released Thursday.

The total spend of U.K.-based film productions reached a record $1.97 billion in 2011, up from $1.94 billion in 2010. This came even though the number of features produced wholly or partly in the U.K. fell from 343 in 2010 to 274 in 2011.

International investment also hit record levels, driving overall production spend, with overseas projects spending more than $1.55 billion, up 4% on 2010, on U.K. facilities, services and crew.

However, local production fell with 200 films made in 2011 compared to 282 in 2010. Of the 200 films, 62% had budgets under $775,000. The spend from local productions was worth $310 million last year, down 4% from the previous year.

“The Yearbook provides compelling evidence of U.K. film’s increasing importance to our economy with a direct contribution of $5.1 billion to U.K. GDP and a healthy trade surplus of over $2.3 billion,” said Amanda Nevill, BFI chief exec.

U.K. films also saw boffo B.O. at home and abroad, nabbing a 13% market share of the local B.O. in 2011 with a record collective gross of $234 million.

The success was fuelled by Oscar-winner “The King’s Speech” ($71.4 million) and comedy “The Inbetweeners Movie” ($69.8 million), which finished the year as the second and third highest-grossing films behind British co-production “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2″ ($113.2 million).

Overall, U.K. films, including U.S. studio-backed productions such as “Harry Potter,” delivered a 36% share of local B.O. revenues with $636 million.

On the global stage, British films earned $5.6 billion in 2011, a 17% market share of worldwide earnings, up from $4.5 billion and a 14% share the previous year. Independent U.K. productions accounted for 2.8% of worldwide receipts, up from 1.6% in 2010, fuelled by the $389 million earned by “The King’s Speech” in 2011 (the film grossed $414 million globally including 2010 earnings).

“The U.K. is punching above our weight globally,” said Tim Cagney, the BFI’s deputy chief exec. “Audiences love British film and that is reflected in our figures today.”

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