U.K. film sector booms in 2006

'Phoenix,' 'Potter' among titles driving 83% cash surge

Cash flowing into the British film sector from overseas rocketed 83% in 2006 to £569.6 million ($1.1 billion), up from £312 million in 2005, the first upswing in two years, according to figures released Monday by the U.K. Film Council.

The surge is being hailed by industry observers and analysts alike as a vote of confidence in the U.K.'s ability to attract international and Hollywood productions.

The inward investment totals included £502.8 million ($984.4 million) from single countries — more than double 2005's £240.8 million — and £66.8 million ($130.8 million) from co-productions with the U.K., down slightly from £71.2 million in 2005.

The previous year's lower tallies can be blamed at least in part on a spell of uncertainty surrounding changes to the local tax system and a weakened dollar that rendered the U.K. a comparatively expensive place to shoot.

Studio-backed movies that contributed to the influx of cash included "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "The Golden Age," "Miss Potter" and "His Dark Materials: The Golden Compass."

According to the Film Council figures, total film production spending across all categories — including co-productions, U.K. features and inward investment — hit £840.1 million ($1.6 billion), a 48% jump from the previous year's £568.8 million.

For the second year in a row, the U.K. saw a rise in the number of local movies produced, with 50 going before the lens last year, up from 37 in 2005.

Local titles contributing to the increase include Joe Wright's "Atonement," Steve Bendelack's "Mr. Bean's Holiday" and the Kenneth Branagh-helmed "The Magic Flute."

The figures show that the total U.K. expenditure on such films stood at £148 million ($289.8 million), down from 2005's £166.3 million.

The stats indicate that the U.K. was involved in the production of a total of 134 feature films, up from 124 in 2005. The '06 figure included 50 U.K. movies, 27 inward-investment films and 57 U.K. co-productions.

The 57 co-productions recorded a 35% jump in U.K. spend to £122.5 million ($239.8 million), from £90.5 million in 2005.

Co-productions in that mix included "Closing the Ring," directed by Richard Attenborough; Gillian Armstrong's "Death Defying Acts"; and "Becoming Jane," directed by Julian Jarrold. U.K. Film Council CEO John Woodward said the industry here is "back in business" after a couple of slow years.

"We are back in business, with British filmmakers winning international awards, a crop of great British films produced, British talent and facilities in demand from filmmakers around the world," Woodward said. "And the new tax credit, which came into force this year, will ensure that the U.K. stays one of the best places in the world to produce a film."
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