Foreign-financed pix fuel 35% rise in U.K. prod’n

92 feature films shot in '99 lead to $919 mil in investments

LONDON — Investment in U.K.-based film production rose 35% in 1999 to £574.4 million ($919 million), thanks entirely to a surge of foreign-financed pics shooting in Britain.

According to British Film Commission figures, 92 feature films were shot in the U.K. last year, plus six foreign-financed telepics. That compares with 83 films and eight telepics in 1998.

There were 22 movies with majority financing from outside the U.K., up from 16 in 1998, including Sony’s “The End of the Affair” and MGM’s “The World Is Not Enough.” These accounted for a total investment of $552 million, up 57% from the previous year.

Domestic budget down

The number of domestic films rose to 70 from 67 in 1998, but their total budget fell 3% to $279 million.

The eight foreign telepics and mini-series contributed a further $111 million to the U.K. production economy, an increase of 86%.

“In a difficult year for the U.K., which saw the demise of Polygram Filmed Entertainment dent hopes for developing British cinema, coupled with the ongoing strength of the pound detracting from our competitiveness in trying to attract Hollywood producers, the growth in production activity represents a real triumph for the production sector,” commented British film commissioner Steve Norris.

But he questioned whether the level of inward investment can be sustained in the face of aggressive competition from other countries seeking Hollywood’s location dollar, and called for “a serious reappraisal of fiscal policy for film” by the government.

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