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The amount spent in the UK on making Hollywood films, such as Batman, and prestige dramas including Netflix’s The Witcher slumped by more than £700m to £2.8bn last year as the pandemic took its toll on the film and TV production industry.
The amount spent on film production in the UK, mostly on Hollywood blockbusters including Mission: Impossible 7 and the third instalment of the Fantastic Beasts franchise, which halted filming on Thursday due to a Covid case on set, fell by 37% year-on-year to nearly £1.4bn.
The figures also underlined the rise in high-end TV shows costing at least £1m an episode, with the amount spent overtaking that invested in film-making in the UK for the first time.
The streaming wars have been led by Netflix and Amazon but the shift in viewing habits has also encouraged the BBC, Sky and ITV to invest more in big budget shows. The move has fuelled a boom in UK-made shows from Netflix’s The Crown and Sky’s Britannia to the BBC’s War of the World’s and Amazon’s Outlander.
Last year, despite the disruption of the pandemic, spending on prestige shows remained relatively resilient, declining by a more modest 11% to £1.5bn, the first time it has outstripped film spend since the government introduced tax relief on high-end TV shows to encourage more to be made in the UK in 2013.
However, total spend on film and high-end TV production in the UK fell by 21% year-on-year to £2.84bn, the worst level since 2016, according to the British Film Institute, which publishes the figures annually.
The BFI’s annual report also highlights the torrid time cinema owners continue to experience as venues either remained closed for extended periods, or were starved of blockbuster content in the brief period when they welcomed back audiences.
Cinema admissions fell by 75% last year to 44m, down from 176m in 2019, the lowest level since records began in 1928. Similarly, the box office take in the UK & Ireland totalled £307m last year, an 81% year-on-year drop, the lowest level since 1992. The top grossing film of last year was WWI drama 1917, which came out pre-pandemic and made £44m.
“It has been a challenging year for cinema but we remain optimistic for the day when we can welcome back audiences,” said Ben Roberts, the chief executive of the BFI.
The BFI preferred to focus on the huge return of spend as the year drew to a close, thanks to initiatives such as the government-backed insurance scheme to protect against Covid shutdowns and facilities being repurposed with virus transmission safety measures in place.
Almost £1.2bn was spent on film and TV production in the final three months of last year, the second highest ever quarterly spend on record, as broadcasters, Hollywood studios and streamers rushed to get the pipeline flowing to plug the pandemic gap in fresh content viewers were facing.
“Last spring it was hard to imagine that we would be generating £1bn worth of production activity in the final quarter,” said Roberts. “This has been achieved by industry and government pulling together and the determination of our workforce to get back up and running.”
Last month, Netflix, which spends more than $1bn (£730m) annually on UK-made content, announced it is to release 70 films this year, promising one new release each week, its biggest ever slate. And Sky, which is owned by NBC Universal-parent Comcast, has announced a 125-title film and TV slate for this year. In December, relative streaming newcomer Disney+ announced a doubling of content spend to $15bn by 2024, as it aims to attract as many as 260m subscribers to its Disney+ streaming service.
“Production recovery in the UK is well underway and demand for content is not only still there but in fact greater than ever before,” said Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission, the industry body supporting UK film and TV production.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Money spent on film and TV production in UK down 21% in 2020 | Film industry