UK production spending hits record high in 2021, with independent film spending up 39%

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The Batman Credit: Warner Bros. Ent

The post-lockdown boom in high-end film and television (HETV) production in the UK was confirmed today by official statistics from the BFI showing that total expenditure reached £5.64bn in 2021, a new record.

Cinema and HETV’s combined production spend in 2021 is £1.27billion higher than in the pre-pandemic year 2019, according to figures from the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit.

HETV was largely responsible for driving overall production levels to the new record, topping £4.09bn, almost double pre-pandemic levels of 2019. This figure includes £737m from an increased number of long-running one-off “movie” productions made for streaming platforms eligible for HETV tax relief, such as Pinocchio and Mathilde: the musical.

By comparison, spending on film production reached £1.55 billion, a 13% increase on spending of £1.36 billion reported in 2020.

Investment and co-production films and HETV shows generated £4.77bn, or 84% of production spend, underscoring how the UK has become a global hub for content creation. HETV broadcasts accounted for the lion’s share of inbound generation, £3.44bn, or 72% of total combined spend; feature films contributed £1.33 billion, or 28% of spending.

April to June was the commercial part of the production year with £2.29 billion in high-end film and TV production spending, the highest three-month period on record for film and HETV spending.

Boost to independent cinema

The number of films entering production in the UK in 2021 was 209 films, 75 more than for 2020, a year that was significantly disrupted by the pandemic.

Of the 209 films starting production, the majority (126) were classified by the BFI as independent British feature films and they contributed £221m to total spend, a 39% increase on spend of £158.2 million in 2020.

British films that went into production included Richard Eyre Hallelujah!, by Roger Michel Elizabeth, by Peter Strickland Gourmet Flow and Hettie Macdonald’s The unlikely pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

A further 28 co-production feature films generated an expenditure of £58 million in the UK, a 60% increase on the expenditure of £29 million generated by 18 co-productions in 2020. As a result, the expenditure of co-production of 2021 are now the highest since 2013. Co-productions included Kim Burdon’s The Canterville Ghost, by Sharon Maymon my happy endingFlorian Zeller The son and Pablo Larrain spencer.

55 foreign investment films contributed £1.28 billion, or 82% of total spending in 2021. Nine feature films backed by US studios, including Batman, Aquaman 2, Marvels and Mission: Impossible 7 accounted for £992m of total inbound investment in 2021. Inbound investment films from non-US studios generated an outlay of £283.7m.

Inward investment films that have started production include Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, Cinderella, Dungeons & Dragons, Les Merveilles, Poor Things, and Wonka.

High-end television boom

HETV production in the UK has exploded since the introduction of UK HETV tax relief in 2013, generating a new record spending of £4.09bn in 2021 from 211 productions.

This is 155% more than in 2020 and 85% more than the pre-pandemic record of £2.21 billion generated in 2019.

Foreign investment and co-production – 55% of all HETV broadcasts – are driving this growth, accounting for £3.44bn or 84% of total spend.

Foreign investment HETV productions made last year include Bridgerton series 2, Call My Agent!, The Crown series 5, The Essex Serpent, The Rig, a very British scandal and The Witcher: Origin of Blood.

Domestic HETV productions – 45% of all HETV shows – also generated record spend with £648m across 94 shows, representing 16% of total spend and a 32% increase from £491m sterling spent in 2019.

National HETV productions made in 2021 included The Amazing Mr Blunden, The Bay, The Ipcress File, Shetland and Without Sin.

Lower animation expenses

Spending on animated TV programs made in the UK in 2021 was £73m across 30 productions. This represents a 19% drop in spending on animation programs in 2020. The BFI said that as new data becomes available, it could increase.

National animation programs generated £49.1m across 21 productions, representing 67% of total spend. Foreign investment and co-production animation programs generated £23.8m across nine productions, or 25% of total animation spend. In contrast, 66% of spending in 2019 was generated by foreign investment and co-production and 31% by domestic animation programs.

Ben Roberts, chief executive of BFI, said: “The record level of film and television production in the UK revealed today is good news for our industry and the UK economy and demonstrates the speed of the sector’s recovery. The foundations for future growth are underway with expanding studio spaces and production hotspots in our countries and regions, and working with industry to build the skilled workforce we need. to meet demand and stay on top of our game.

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