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Film and TV Biz Help U.K. Stave Off Recession Fears

Amid the disruption and uncertainty wrought by Brexit and fears of a recession, the U.K.’s film and TV business continues to shrug off the jitters and provide the British economy with a much-needed boost.

Figures issued Thursday by the U.K. Office for National Statistics show that, in the wider services sector, film and TV constitute a major, and growing, contributor to the British economy. “The sub-industry that had the largest contribution to gross domestic product growth was motion pictures (including TV and music), which has been one of the best-performing sectors over the last year,” the ONS said in its report for the three months up to the end of August.

Rob Kent of the ONS said TV and film production helped fuel overall GDP growth during the quarter, “despite a weak performance across manufacturing” and a shrinking of the economy by 0.1% in the month of August. The boost provided by film and TV is expected to help Britain stave off an official recession, which is defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction. The British economy shrank by 0.2% from April through June.

“These figures reflect the dynamism of the sector at the moment – a dynamism so evident in this year’s BFI London Film Festival,” Amanda Nevill, CEO of the British Film Institute, told Variety. “These impressive ONS figures aren’t a flash in the pan. They build further on many years of solid growth. The challenge that the BFI is embracing is to make sure sufficient investment is there to scale up the infrastructure, skills, facilities, talent development and retention to match this growth.”

Amid the boom in film and TV production, studios are being built or expanded apace but are struggling to keep up with demand. One reason Brexit is seemingly not affecting Britain’s film and TV business is that much of the production activity has a U.S. dimension. Disney is taking over most of Pinewood – where parts of upcoming “Star Wars” installment “The Last Jedi” was shot – and Netflix is setting up shop at Shepperton. Cultural familiarity, a skilled workforce, and good infrastructure all work in the U.K.’s favor in terms of projects with U.S. talent or backing.

The business is still braced for a Brexit hit as TV channels registered in the U.K. move abroad and international companies re-evaluate London as a base if the U.K. leaves the European Union. The possibility of losing E.U. funding for distribution and the movement of staff in an increasingly international business are also major concerns.

Britain is scheduled to leave the European Union on Oct. 31, but it is unclear whether it will happen by that deadline.

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