U.K. film inward investment dips

But international co-productions on the rise

LONDON -- By the end of 2010 movie production inward investment levels -- cash flowing into production from overseas -- may end up being slightly down on the previous year's record breaking tally of £753 million ($1.1 billion), according to the U.K. Film Council.

But while this year's totals may end up falling slightly short, the U.K. Film Council declared the sector in rude health with most indicators painting a rosy picture rather than a recession-hit gloomy one for filmmakers and those working in movie production.

The latest figures, published by the U.K. Film Council Wednesday, point to healthy levels of movie production across the board in the first half of 2010, with 51 projects starting in that time with a total U.K. spend of £643 million ($981.7 million).

During the same period of 2009, the sector posted 60 movie starts with a combined spend of £726.4 million ($1.1 billion).

With movies such as "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 2," "John Carter of Mars," "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "Hugo Cabret" all shooting here, the 14 inward investment titles account for a U.K. spend of £557.1 million ($850.6 million) in the first half of 2010.

That compares to 19 films and a £616.9 million ($942 million) spend in the same six-month period last year.

But with an end to the "Harry Potter" franchise in sight and no sign of the next James Bond installment on the horizon, British Film Commission Colin Brown's efforts to woo the studios to these shores to shoot will continue apace.

U.K. Film Council chief executive John Woodward said he is sure efforts to bring big Hollywood productions here continue to pay off and help bolster the creative economy here.

Woodward hinted that the levels of U.S. studio activity on British shores is likely to ramp up in the remaining summer months as a favorable dollar exchange rate continues and British producers finally come to terms with taking advantage of the U.K. tax relief system that has taken a couple of years to bed in.

And the Council was also quick to point out that 2009 hit levels not seen since 2004 so this year's slight first half downturn should be looked at in terms of last year being a bumper year rather than the norm.

The figures came as part of the U.K. Film Council's publication of its annual statistical yearbook online.

The hefty undertaking, jam-packed with facts and figures on the film industry is now only available in digital form as the Council phases out the days of the hefty paper tome and embraces the modern age with an all-singing all-dancing digital Internet micro site complete with charts, figures and comment.

The biggest surprise among the half figures was an eye-widening jump in the number of co-productions mounted in the first half of 2010 compared to 2009.

Reversing the worryingly rapid downward trend of the last few years, the number of co-productions in the first half of 2010 doubled to eight with a combined spend of £15.6 million ($23.8 million) compared to £9.1 million ($13.9 million) in 2009 from four starts.

"I am as surprised as anyone by that rise," Woodward said. "It may be that it has taken a couple of years of the tax system to be operating for producers to have worked out how to mount co-productions successfully," he said.

The production figures also indicate a slight fall in the number and spend of homegrown movies with budgets of £500,000 ($820,000) plus made in the first half of 2010.

The 29 U.K. movies in production in the first half of 2010 carry a spend of £70.3 million ($107.3 million), compared to the previous year's 37 titles which cost £100.4 million ($153.2 million) to produce.

The Council is holding its breath now until the coalition Government's budget measures in October hoping that the tax credit system remains in place and is not cut as part of deficit reduction measures being introduced across the board.

"It's been proven that the tax credit system works and is abuse-proof, so we are hopeful it will be maintained," Woodward said.
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