The state of the UK film industry – 2016 in review

Over the last week, newspaper headlines have reported new British Film Institute (BFI) figures showing that UK film production broke records in 2016. It’s encouraging data, but dig a little deeper and it tells a story of two halves: a boom in inward investment by major franchises and Studio-backed titles; and sharp declines for domestic and independent films in terms of spend and box office.

First to those record-breaking stats: over £1.6 billion was spent on production in the UK, while investment to film was up 18% at £1.35 billion and high-end TV saw £478 million invested. This inward film investment to the UK was mainly for large Hollywood franchises, such as Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi and Zack Snyder’s Justice League.  

The BFI’s data also revealed that ticket sales at the UK box office in 2016 stood at £1.227 billion, the second highest level on record.

Now to the less encouraging statistics for indigenous production. There were 129 domestic films made in the UK in 2016, between them spending £206m, a drop of £8% on 2015’s total of £223m. Film data specialist Stephen Follows highlighted that the amount spent in the UK on co-productions and low-budget films has halved in just four years: from £76m to £41m for co-productions and £21m to £10m for low-budget films. Read Stephen’s review of the data here.

And while the share of UK box office going to indie UK films has increased significantly over the past decade, the market share was only 7.4% in 2016, its lowest level in three years and under the ten-year average. This market share compares poorly against other domestic territories: 63% in Japan, 36% in France, 28% in Italy, 18% in Spain and 16.5% in Germany.

Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI commented: “With film production reaching £1.6 billion for the first time, today’s statistics show that UK film is open for business and our position as a global leader for film and TV production is stronger than ever. Quintessentially British stories from leading British talent, such as Bridget Jones’s BabyFantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them and The Crown, are generating investment, creating jobs and winning audiences at home and across the globe. Nevertheless, as set out in our five year strategy BFI2022, there is much to be done to ensure British independent films are able to better capitalise on opportunities in this economically and creatively buoyant environment.”

Explore the BFI’s data here.

Explore the BFI’s 2022 vision here.

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