In cheering news for the British entertainment business, film and high-end television production spend in the U.K. reached over £5.64 billion ($7.65 billion) in 2021, £1.27 billion higher than in the pre-pandemic year 2019.
Official figures published on Friday by the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit reveal that film production reached £1.55 billion, 3% up on 2020, while high-end TV production soared to £4.09 billion, nearly double pre-pandemic 2019 levels. The latter figure includes includes £737 million from films made for streaming platforms, spread over 36 single domestic U.K. and inward investment productions.
Inward investment and co-production films and high-end TV shows accounted for £4.77 billion, or 84% of the production spend. Of this, high-end TV accounted for £3.44 billion, or 72% of the combined total spend and feature films contributed £1.33 billion, or 28% of the spend. Inward investment film spend of £1.27 billion is 4% down on 2020, but the report notes that several films started production in 2020 continued in 2021 and their spend is accounted for in the 2020 statistics.
The number of films going into production in the U.K. in 2021 was 209, which is 75 more than COVID-affected 2020.
At the box office, the two top grossing films of the year, “No Time To Die” and “Spider-Man: No Way Home” had a combined gross of £181 million, accounting for 30% of the year’s total business. “No Time To Die” is the third highest grossing film of all time in the U.K. and Ireland with £96.6 million, behind another Bond film, “Skyfall” (£102 million) and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (£123 million).
Total admissions for 2021 were 74 million, an increase of 68% from 2020. The total box office generated by all films on release in the U.K. and Ireland in 2021 was £602 million, a 144% increase on the £247 million in 2020. The 2019 pre-pandemic box office was £1.3 billion.
U.K.-qualifying films, including “No Time To Die,” accounted for a 41% share of the box office compared to 46.5% in 2020, while 36.1% was accounted for by U.S.-studio backed films which is the highest share on record. This puts the balancing market share for independent U.K. films at 5%, a sharp decline from 2020’s share of 14%. However, the total box office for independent U.K. features was relatively similar year-on-year, with less than a £4 million variance in total earnings, the BFI report notes.
U.K. Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “It’s fantastic to see both the record level of spending on film and television production in the UK and the return of audiences to cinemas. We have supported the industry through the pandemic and these brilliant figures highlight the importance of the sector to our economy.”
Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive said: “The record-breaking level of film and TV production in the UK revealed today is good news for our industry and the U.K. economy and demonstrates the speed of the sector’s recovery. The groundwork for further growth is underway with expansion of studio spaces and production hot spots across our nations and regions, and working with industry to build up the skilled workforce that we need to meet demand and stay on top of our game. Government support for production with the screen sector tax reliefs and the Film & TV Production Restart Scheme have played an important part in the industry’s growth and recovery.”
“The Culture Recovery Fund has been a lifeline for independent cinemas and it’s great to see audiences returning to the big screen with Bond and Spiderman leading the way with phenomenal success and independent U.K. films, such as ‘Spencer,’ offering such a range of different cinematic stories,” Roberts added.
Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission, said: “The U.K. is enjoying a once-in-a-generation growth in production. The benefits are being felt right across our nations and regions, with large scale investment in infrastructure and revenue into U.K. plc that will directly benefit local communities. Existing production hubs are growing to accommodate the demand, and new hubs are developing throughout the U.K., bringing with them thousands of new jobs. The BFC is proud to have provided support to projects and companies accounting for 94% of the total inward investment high-end TV spend, and 90% of inward investment feature film spend in the U.K. in 2021. We and our partners are determined to harness this phenomenal demand and support an ever-widening workforce to produce world-class content for global audiences.”