U.K. Box Office Takings in 2011 Break the Billion Pound Barrier for First Time

3:47 AM PST 01/31/2012 by Stuart Kemp
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Top three movies “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2,” “The King’s Speech” and “The Inbetweeners” bring in the bucks; inward investment goes past the billion pound mark.

LONDON – Box office takings broke the billion pound barrier in the U.K. in 2012 for the first time ever, total U.K. spend on movie-making rose year-on-year while The King’s Speech and The Inbetweeners fueled the indie British movie scene appetite, according to the latest British Film Institute research.

The BFI Research and Statistics Unit facts and figures indicate that for the first time ever, more than £1 billion ($1.56 billion) was coralled from cinemagoers -- excluding takings in the Republic of Ireland normally included in the totals --  on the back of box office wizardry for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, regal takings for The King’s Speech and bawdy laughs for The Inbetweeners.

Potter was number one with £73 million ($114.6 million), Speech took £45.6 million ($71.6 million) and Inbetweeners grabbed £45 million ($70.6 million).

The U.K. box office total nosed over with £1.04 billion ($1.63 billion), a rise of 5 percent on 2010 with total admissions tallying up to 171.6 million in 2011, up 1.4 percent on the previous year.

The record-breaking grosses must be digested in the context of a hike in the tax on cinema tickets which rose from 17.5 percent to 20 percent in January 2011.

The stats show that the market share of U.K. box office for British independent films rose 13.5 percent - the highest ever recorded, reaching 36.2 percent when including both independents and those shot in the U.K. but financed from abroad. The market share in 2010 for the equivalent movies stood at 24 percent.

According to the BFI, the strong performance was driven by the popularity of both British independents and blockbusters made in the U.K. with British talent, crew and services, such as Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

2011 also proved a good year for inward investment – cash coming in from overseas, largely accounted for by studio-backed projects –  with £1 billion ($1.56 billion), up from £979.7 million ( $1.54 billion) in 2010.

Movies adding to the overseas investment included Marc Forster’s geo-political thrillerWorld War Z starring Brad Pitt, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi adventure Prometheus starring Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron and Cloud Atlas, the international ensemble drama starring Tom Hanks.

British Film Commission chief executive Adrian Wootton, the man tasked with keeping the cash coming to British shores, said the figures are a welcome fillip in harsh economic times.

“2011’s production figures are further evidence that the UK is home to some of the world’s most talented and sought-after film-making talent. Coupled with our excellent infrastructure and facilities, the U.K. film industry is continuing to have a positive impact on the economy, which at the moment is something which should be celebrated and of which we should be proud,” Wootton said.

Total investment in movie production reached £1.26 billion ($1.98 billion) in 2011, a fresh record for the British film industry and a small rise from 2010’s £1.25 billion (£1.96 billion).

But while spend on film production in the U.K. overall was up in 2011, the total number of U.K. films produced with budgets of £500,000 ($784,720) and more fell to 71, down from 78 in 2010. 98 films were made on budgets of less than $784,720, bringing the total number of local U.K. feature films produced in 2011 to 169, again down on 2010’s 262 films.

The expenditure on making U.K. local movies in 2011 also fell to  £194 million ($304 million), 9.4 percent down on 2010’s £214 million ($336 million) total.

While fewer U.K. films were made, the number of British co-productions with other countries, the majority with other EU member states, rose to 40 in 2011from 30 in 2010.

Co-productions recorded a U.K. spend of £59 million ($92.6 million), up from £56.3 million ($88.3 million) in 2010. 

“Film is at the very core of Britain’s cultural life and today’s figures show that the appetite for cinema-going across the U.K. is as healthy as ever. 2011 was a phenomenal year, with the box office results showing that independently produced British films captivated audiences,” said BFI CEO Amanda Nevill before hitting a cautionary note. “That said, we are pragmatic; it’s still a challenging time for filmmakers trying to raise finance to make independent British films in this tough economic climate.”

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