2 FEB 2024

UK: Film and high-end television production in 2023 was 32% down from 2022

The latest official figures published by the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit show that the Hollywood strikes impacted the global industry.

2 FEB 2024

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The latest official figures published by the BFI's Research and Statistics Unit show that in a year in which film and high-end TV production was impacted globally by the Hollywood strikes, it continued to generate billions for the UK economy. The combined spend by film and high-end television production (HETV) during 2023 reached £4.23 billion, 32% down on 2022 but almost level with pre-pandemic levels. HETV contributed the lion's share of the total £4.23 billion production spend shows, with £2.87 billion, or 68%, with feature film production contributing £1.36 billion, or 32% of the total spend.

Inward investment and co-production of films and HETV shows delivered £3.31 billion, or 78% of the combined production spend. This demonstrates the UK's global reputation as the world's leading international film and TV production center. Of the total £2.87 billion spent on 187 HETV productions in 2023, inward investment shows contributed £2.07 billion (72% of total HETV spend), a 43% decrease on 2022. Domestic UK shows accounted for £766 million (27% of total HETV spend), a 21% increase in 2022; co-production spending was £38.9 million (1.4% of total expenditure), a 7% increase in 2022. Of the total £1.36 billion spent on 207 film productions in 2023. Inward investment films contributed £1.04 billion (77% of total film spend), a 40% decrease in 2022, and domestic UK films accounted for £150.2 million (just over 11% of total film spend), a 13% decrease in 2022. Co-production spending accounted for £162.8 million (just over 12% of total film spend), more than two and a half times spent in 2022.

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said: "While the American strikes mean it has been a challenging year for global film production, the future for British film remains bright as it continues to bring billions of pounds to our economy. Five of the top ten highest-grossing films at the UK box office were made on British soil, which is a testament to our film industry's ability to draw audiences to cinemas and compete on the world stage. Our success is built on the innate talent of our actors, writers, creatives, and crews. But it is also a product of this government's efforts - through our tax reliefs and investments in skills, technology, and studio infrastructure – to make the UK the best place to write, produce and direct. We will continue championing our screen sectors as we deliver our plans to boost the creative industries by £50 billion by 2030 and keep the success story of UK studios and cinemas going."

Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive, said: "The production and box office figures that we have published today reflect the different dynamics at play across our sector. While a level of film and high-end television production in the UK was disrupted by strikes in 2024, our industry continues to contribute billions to the UK economy and support a huge range of jobs. At the same time, audiences showed up in record numbers for must-see movies, including 'Barbie,' 'Oppenheimer,' and 'Wonka,' which exemplify the talent and artistry of many UK creatives. And despite notable recent successes such as 'The Great Escaper,' 'Rye Lane,' 'Scrapper,' 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry,' and 'Polite Society,' we cannot ignore that the statistics also highlight concerns for lower budget UK films, increasingly challenged in securing finance and visibility. Our work and commitment in this area continues."

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission, said: "Globally, the current environment for film and TV production has become challenging for several reasons, and it will come as no surprise that as a result of industrial action in the US suspending production halfway through the year, today's figures are lower than those for 2022. However, despite this, we remain in The top 20 UK qualifying3 films - refers to the Certification process for qualifying the nationality of films under the UK Cultural Test or as an official production incredibly proud of the UK's position as a leading global center for film and TV production, post and visual effects, attracting international and domestic producers to make their content here. This is the result of our world-class crew base - in which we continue to invest, our generous tax credits - which have once again been enhanced, and our increased UK-wide stage space offer, coupled with our range of cutting-edge facilities and diverse locations."

The production statistics also reveal a varying level of investment made by streamer platforms in single long-form 'film' productions (i.e., not episodic or series). In 2023, 18 single domestic UK and inward investment productions contributed £379.2 million to the HETV spending of £2.87 billion. However, the methodology to collate the data requires complicated analysis; while most productions for streamers are captured within the data for HETV production because they utilize the HETV cultural test to access tax relief, some are now captured within film data because they use the film cultural test. Total admissions for 2023 were 123.6 million admissions, an increase of 5.5% in 2022, helped by a vital summer box office but lagging behind the pre-pandemic year of 2019 by 30% (176 million admissions). Box office takings in the UK and the Republic of Ireland in 2023 totaled £985.8 million across 822 films, 4% more than £945 million earned by 834 releases in 2022 but 24% behind 2019's total box office.

The highest-grossing release of 2023 was "Barbie," with £95.6 million, representing 10% of the year's total box office and outstripping 2022's top-grossing film "Top Gun: Maverick" (83.7 million). "Barbie's" same-day release partner "Oppenheimer" is the second biggest film of the year with £58.9 million and is currently on re-release. The top 20 film releases of the year in the UK and Republic of Ireland also feature ten UK/USA feature films (including one UK/USA/China) made in the UK: "Barbie," "Wonka," "The Little Mermaid," "Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning," "Indiana Jones And The Dial of Destiny," "Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania," "Fast X," "Napoleon," "Dungeons & Dragons: Honour Among Thieves" and "Meg 2." Of the top 20 UK qualifying film releases, which grossed £372.9 million – 47% more than 2022's top 20 – 18 are UK collaborations with other countries.

The total number of films going into production in the UK in 2023 was 207 which is 13 fewer than reported for 2022. The total spend on film production in the UK in 2023 was £1.36 billion, 31% down from £1.97 billion in 2022 (subsequently updated to £2.2 billion). The majority of spending in 2023 was contributed by inward investment films, with £1.04 billion from 74 features, accounting for 77% of the total UK spending, continuing to demonstrate the UK's reputation globally as a world-class production hub. This is 40% lower than the UK spend of £1.74 billion (subsequently revised to £1.94 billion), a predictable impact in light of Hollywood films impacted by the strikes. Film production starts rescheduled for 2024, including "How To Train Your Dragon" and "Hedda." Looking back, 2022 reflected a 37% surge in production activity and spending in 2021 due to accelerated production activity from the pandemic. Inward investment films that contributed to the £1.04 billion spend included "Beetlejuice 2," "Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire," and "Heads of State."

Of the 207 films starting production, 95 are domestic UK features (almost evenly split between higher and lower budget features), contributing £150.2 million in spending, a 13% decrease on the £173.6 million spent in 2022 (subsequently updated to £201.3 million). Films that went into production included "The Salt Path," "Jackdaw," and "The Radleys." A further 37 UK-international co-productions generated a UK spend of £162.8 million, more than two and a half times more than the spend across 30 co-productions in 2022. As a result, 2023's co-production spending is now the highest since 2013. Co-productions included "Paddington In Peru" and "We Live In Time."

UK production spend in 2023 by non-US studio films (including UK and non-studio inward investment independent productions) was £653.2 million. This represents 48% of total UK film production spend, the highest since 2008. Non-US studio inward investment films generated a spend of £340.2 million (£382.2 million in 2022); domestic non-studio films generated a spend of £150.2 million (£173.6 million in 2022); and non-US co-productions generated a spend of £162.8 million (£59.1 million in 2022). While single films shown on streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Disney+, and Apple TV are made like films for cinema release, their production spend is primarily included within the total spend for HETV, as they qualify for HETV tax relief. A few single films funded by streamers are captured within the film statistics. The 18 long-form single-episode HETV projects in 2023, including productions such as Joseph Konsinski's "Apex" and Ben Taylor's "Joy," had a combined UK spend of £379.2 million, representing a 59% drop in spending in 2022 of £938.8 million (revised to £1.01 billion) across 22 productions. The Hollywood strikes would also have impacted production starts.

In general, HETV production in the UK has boomed since the introduction of the UK's HETV tax relief in 2013. In 2023, the UK spent £2.87 billion, a 33% decrease from £4.30 billion in 2022 (revised to £4.85 billion), the highest year on record. It was recognized for an acceleration in production following disruption during the pandemic. However, the 2023 spending represents a 25% increase on 2019's pre-pandemic spending of £2.29 billion (revised to £2.47 billion). Of the 187 HETV productions that started principal photography in 2023, spending on inward investment shows accounted for 72% of the total with a spend of £2.07 billion, a 42% decrease on 2022's £3.63 billion. Domestic production spent £766 million, accounting for 27% of total HETV spending and a 21% increase of £632.7 million in 2022. Co-productions accounted for just over 1% of the total spend, with £38.9 million (close to £36.5 million in 2022).

The total spend across the 91 domestic UK productions represents the highest level of spend for this area of HETV production since the introduction of the tax relief in 2013. Domestic HETV productions included "Call The Midwife" (series 13), "Rebus," "Trigger Point (series 2)," "Dope Girls," "Waterloo Road" (series 12), "McDonald & Dodds" (series 4) and "After the Flood." This £2.07 billion spend in inward investment HETV shows spending is ahead of £1.96 billion in 2019, with 2021 and 2022 significantly higher (£4.0 billion and £4.2 billion, respectively) as production in the UK accelerated out of the pandemic. Inward investment HETV productions made last year include "House of the Dragon," "A Thousand Blows," and "Doctor Who" (series 15). The £38.9 million the UK spent across seven co-productions in 2023 is the highest level recorded, nudging ahead of £36.4 million in 2022. HETV co-productions included "The Heist Before Christmas."