UK cinema admissions in 2009 highest since 2002; box office hits £1 billion

MUMBAI: The UK film industry continued to weather the global recession well in 2009. UK cinema admissions were at their highest level since 2002 at 173.5 million and the UK / Ireland box office exceeding £1 billion for the first time.

The industry reported the second best production year on record with total spends of £956.9 million, which is 56 per cent higher than 2008.

It also saw the highest ever level of inward investment to the tune of £752.7 million, which has more than doubled year on year and increased by £20 million on the record 2003 figures.

The level of independent film production culturally specific to the UK continues at a fairly consistent level compared to recent years, with 71 films made in 2009, which was down slightly from 77 films in 2008, spending a total £169.2 million.

2009 also saw independent UK films taking their largest market share in a decade (8.5 per cent of UK box office).

The number of co-productions remained stable at 22, but this figure remains significantly lower than the high of 106 in 2003. This is largely a function of the one flaw in the otherwise excellent film tax credit which dis-incentivises UK participation in co-productions by focusing tax relief on production spend made on the ground in the UK.

The overall market share of UK films (which includes both UK independent and UK films produced with US backing) was 16.5 per cent in 2009, with independent UK films taking an 8.5 per cent share, which is the highest figure of the decade, and comes on the back of successful titles such as Slumdog Millionaire, St Trinian’s 2: The Legend of Fritton’s Gold, and In the Loop.

The record-breaking box office figures come after a busy and very successful year at UK cinemas for international blockbusters (such as Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, and The Hangover), whilst 2009 can also be seen as the year of 3D, with three of the year’s top five films in 3D (Avatar, Ice Age 3, and Up).

Minister for the Creative Industries Sion Simon said, "Looking at today’s figures it’s hard to imagine that there was a time not so long ago that UK production was in the doldrums and cinema-going was under threat from new forms of home entertainment. We are now looking at superb production statistics and incredibly buoyant box office receipts, which come at a time when film is poised to make its next big leap into the world of 3D and digital screens, with all the possibilities that those developments bring. It should, of course, be remembered that none of this success happens by chance. Strong and consistent investment by Government over this decade has helped to give UK film the economic and cultural prominence it deserves.  And we should be incredibly proud of the expertise, talent and facilities that continue to make the UK a top choice for overseas producers."

UK Film Council CEO John Woodward said that these figures show a robust UK film industry, adding, "The UK film industry is weathering the recession well. Taken together, these box office and inward investment numbers show how film in the UK has moved from the margins back to the mainstream, helping sustain jobs and promote the UK’s place on the international stage. British cinema-goers are voting with their feet – they want to see big event movies, many of which depend on outstanding British talent and are made in the UK thanks to our reliable film tax credit. In addition, what is particularly encouraging is that the public appetite for low budget independently-produced British films is rising once again despite the blockbuster phenomenon. So at a time when film budgets are being squeezed and production finance is very hard to raise, it’s important to realise that many of these films are supported through public subsidy from the UK Film Council, BBC Films and Film4. The case for continued public support for film has therefore never been stronger."

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