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Avengers and Star Wars help £3bn boost for UK film and TV

Studio-backed UK made films such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker helped boost the spending boom in UK film and high-end television production. Photo: Keith Mayhew/Echoes Wire/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Blockbusters such as Avengers: Endgame and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker helped to generate a 30% uplift of over £3bn ($3.9bn) for the UK economy in 2019, according to new figures released by the British Film Institute (BFI).

A record £3.6bn was spent on film and high-end television in the UK, a rise of 16% from the £3.1bn spent in 2018 — pointing to the UK as the world’s busiest production hub.

In total, 188 films went into production in the UK in 2019, with £1.95bn being spent — a 7% increase on the year before. Much of this came from big US studios, which spent £1.4bn backing the production of 21 blockbusters in the UK last year, making up 71% of the total spend.

There was also a notable influx of 29 Indian films being produced in the UK with a collective spend of £112m.

Three of 2019’s top five grossing films at the UK box office were made in the UK: Avengers: Endgame, which took £88.7m, The Lion King (£76m) and Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker (£54.9m).

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Cinema goers also flocked to see independent UK films — such as Downton Abbey, historical drama The Favourite, and Beatles romcom Yesterday — pushing the market share of independent UK films at the box office up to 13%, an increase from 11.7% in 2018. When UK-made, studio-backed films such as Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, Aladdin, Dumbo, and Rocketman are included, the full UK market share increases to 46%, the highest since records began.

Amanda Nevill, chief executive 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 UK.  It’s great to see some of our greatest home-grown talent making big international pictures such as 1917.”

Cinema admissions in 2019 reached 176 million, a slight decrease of 0.6% from 2018, but still the second biggest year by admissions for 49 years. Total box office revenue for all films released was £1.25bn, just 2% less than last year.

The rivalry between streaming platforms, such as Netflix (NFLX) and Amazon (AMZN), also helped boost investment in the UK production industry. The spend on high-end TV — programmes costing more than £1m per episode to make — went up to £1.66bn, a jump of 29% and the highest amount since the introduction of creative industries tax relief in 2013.

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Of the 123 high-end TV shows made in the UK in 2019, 74 were international productions for companies such a Netflix and Amazon, with a huge interim spend of £1.29bn, an increase of 51% on 2018 and the highest since records began. In comparison, domestic UK companies, such as the BBC, Sky, and ITV, spent £371m — 14% less than last year.

Popular big-budget TV series made in the UK last year include Netflix’s The Crown and Amazon’s period drama The Spanish Princess, which is filmed in Bristol.

“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 UK continuing to meet the growing demand for content, studio space and world-class skills, talent and technical expertise,” said Adrian Wootton OBE, chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London.