Film, High-End TV Production in the U.K. Rises 16% to Hit Record $4.7 Billion

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Nicole Dove

Spend on film and high-end television production in the U.K. was the highest ever recorded in 2019, hitting £3.62 billion ($4.7 billion), an increase of 16%, according to British Film Institute figures.

The growth was driven by high levels of international production investment in the U.K., which topped the £3 billion ($3.9 billion) mark for the first time.

Today’s figures from the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit confirm how the U.K. has cemented its place in recent years as a key global production hub, underpinned by a strong talent base, production services and attractive tax credits.

Inward investment films made in the UK in 2019 included Cary Joji Fukanaga’s “No Time to Die,” Sam Mendes’s “1917,” Antoine Fuqua’s “Infinite,” Robert Zemeckis’s “The Witches,” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet.”

£1.8 billion ($2.3 billion) was spent by 71 major inward investment films on production in the U.K., up 17% on the previous year’s spend, and accounting for 89% of the total spend on film production in the U.K. over the year.

Meanwhile, inward investment and co-produced high-end TV dramas included season four of “The Crown,” Lenny Abrahamson’s “Normal People,” season two of “His Dark Materials” and season five of “Outlander.” In total, there were 74 inward investment and co-production high-end TV productions, which spent a record £1.3 billion ($1.7 billion), up 51% on 2018.

The inward investment production came to the U.K. from a number of different countries, including an influx of 29 Indian productions with a collective spend of £112 million ($146 million), including Amarjit Singh’s “Jhalle” and Sharan Art’s “Galwakdi.”

In total, film production hit £1.96 billion ($2.6 billion), a 7% increase on 2018, while high-end TV production topped £1.66 billion ($2.16 billion), the highest level since the introduction of the tax relief in 2013.

However, spend on domestic U.K. films and high television fell in 2019.

Of the 188 films which went into production in 2019, 94 were domestic UK films with a total interim spend of £174.7 million ($227 million), a 46% decrease in the number of films and 45% decrease in spend from £318.7 million ($414.8 million) last year.

The BFI said this was partly reflected by the fact that films being made by home-grown talent are attracting international finance and are therefore classified as inward investment, such Sam Mendes’s “1917” and Andy Serkis’s “Venom 2.”

Spend on domestic high-end television production all fell, dropping 14% to £371 million ($483 million).

Meanwhile, 23 U.K. co-productions went into production in 2019 with spend of £34.2 million ($44.5 million) compared with the interim spend in 2018 of £25 million ($32.5 million).

In terms of box office, films released in the U.K. in 2019 attracted 176 million admissions, a 0.6% decrease on 2018, making it the second biggest year by admissions for 49 years.

Total box office revenue for all films released was £1.254 billion ($1.63 billion), 2% down on last year.

Three of 2019’s top five grossing films at the U.K. box office were made in the U.K.: “Avengers: Endgame” (£88.7 million, $115 million), “The Lion King” (£76 million, $99 million) and “Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker” (£54.9 million, $71 million).

Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI, said: “Today’s figures show an incredibly vibrant picture, a sector that continues to grow, delivering billions to the economy and a wide spectrum of jobs all over the U.K. It’s great to see some of our greatest home-grown talent making big international pictures such as ‘1917.’ It also underlines the importance of ensuring that the independent sector, the lifeblood for this growing success, is properly supported.”

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London, said: “Film and high-end TV are big business, indeed we are the fastest growing sector in the economy, and today’s record breaking figures show the U.K. continuing to meet the growing demand for content, studio space and world-class skills, talent and technical expertise.”

Nigel Adams, minister for creative industries, added: “The increase in inward investment reflects the U.K.’s acclaimed reputation as a home for fantastic talent and creativity in our film and television sectors.”