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British Film Institute: U.K. Appetite for 3D Movies Fading, Netflix Shaking Up Market

The organization's annual Statistical Yearbook also records a slump in female filmmaking and says James Cameron's "Titanic" has regained the top spot in the rankings of the highest-grossing films in Britain.

LONDON – The appetite for 3D theatrical releases is on the wane, there has been a decline in diversity behind the camera, and the entry of Netflix in the U.K. has rocked the market for TV as the traditional home for movies on the small screen -- those are some of the insights in the British Film Institute's annual report.

According to its Statistical Yearbook 2013, published Tuesday, Marvel's Avengers Assemble reached the highest 3D revenue at the U.K. box office in 2013 with $46.2 million (£30.2 million). Overall, 58 percent of the film's total gross was taken from 3D screens.

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The BFI's report notes that on average the percentage of films' total box office taken in 3D screenings has decreased since 2010. "Given the decrease in aggregate 3D takings as a percentage of the total U.K. box office, and the decrease in average 3D takings as a percentage of the total takings for individual films, it would appear that enthusiasm for the 3D format is waning," the BFI concluded.

The re-release of James Cameron's Titanic in 3D may have only hit number eight in the ranking of 3D releases in the U.K. and Ireland in 2012 with $15.3 million (£10 million), but its reformatted rollout meant it regained the top spot on the list of the 20 highest-grossing films at the U.K. box office (adjusted for inflation) since 1975.

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Skyfall is in second place on the list with $158 million (£103 million), while another Cameron film, Avatar, is in third with $154 million (£100.5 million).

The 23rd installment in the James Bond franchise, directed by Sam Mendes and starring Daniel Craig, became the first 007 film to take more than $1 billion at the global box office and also accounted for a whopping 8.7 percent of the U.K. box office tally of $1.5 billion (£1.1 billion) last year.

The Statistical Yearbook also shows that the number of female filmmakers is in decline in Britain. In 2012, of 187 identified writers of U.K. films released during the year, 25, or just 13.4 percent, were women, down from 2011's 30.

The proportion of female writers in 2012 is the third lowest since the BFI began monitoring the data in 2007. Female writers include Jane Goldman (The Woman in Black), Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) and Alice Lowe (Sightseers).

For female directors the stats make for even more depressing reading. The proportion of females directing in 2012 is the lowest since data has been kept at 7.8 percent, totaling 14 last year, down from 21 the previous year.

Despite the efforts of Debbie Isitt (Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!), Phyllida Lloyd (The Iron Lady) and Sally Potter (Ginger & Rosa), the lack of female directors remains "an issue," the BFI said, pledging to address it head on in the coming months.

The BFI also devoted a chapter to the growing VOD market, with BFI research and statistics guru Sean Perkins noting the entry into the British marketplace of Netflix and the arrival of Amazon's LoveFilm Instant as game-changers.

Perkins, presenting his final yearbook after more than six years heading the unit, called for an uptick in research into this growing market. The performance of individual titles remains unavailable for the VOD sector, which spans a range of platforms, including connected TVs, cable/satellite/IP TV, digital terrestrial TV, mobile and online.

For U.K. television, 2012 was also a significant year with the completion of the digital switchover.

For the first time ever, the total audience for movies on TV, except pay-per-view, on digital multi-channel services surpassed the total audience watching terrestrial TV.

Overall there were almost 3.86 billion viewings of films on TV in the U.K., a slight decline from the 3.9 billion recorded in 2011.

But given that 2012's tally is the second highest since the BFI's records began in 2000, coupled with last year's heavy sports programming because of the Olympics in the British capital and the European soccer championships, the BFI pointed out that the public's appetite for films remains strong.