U.K. production spend down, boxoffice up

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LONDON -- Production spending in the U.K. dipped to 723 million pounds ($1.4 billion) in 2007, down from the previous year's tally of 855 million pounds, according to the latest stats from the U.K. Film Council.

Inward investment from international filmmakers, which includes Hollywood studio productions that took place here, fell 13.9%, bringing 508 million pounds ($994.5 million) into the British economy in 2007 compared with 590 million pounds in 2006.

The Film Council said the weak dollar, the beginning of the writers strike in the U.S. and the effect of the structure of the new tax credit on co-productions all contributed to the slump.

Indeed, no films fell into the inward co-production category in 2007, a clear signal that the tax changes have affected co-productions.

The U.K. was involved in 28 co-productions, with a total British expenditure of 73.8 million  pounds ($144.5 million), down one-third from 2006's figure of 112 million pounds with 53 films.

U.K. Film Council chief executive John Woodward said that some of the downturn "was expected given that the tax break is geared towards encouraging only shooting and postproduction in the U.K."

He pledged to take a good hard look at how the credit system is affecting co-productions "in much more detail as part of a wider study the government has asked us to undertake with regard to the state of the industry following the introduction of the new tax credits."

But the council notes that 2006 was a "record breaking year," declaring the figures for 2007 "healthy," with movies including "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," "Sweeney Todd," "Brideshead Revisited" and "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" all adding to the 723 million pounds in total spending.

The council also reported a strong year at the U.K. boxoffice, with 904 million pounds ($1.8 billion)in ticket sales, up 8% from the previous year's boxoffice bonanza of 840 million pounds.

Market share at the boxoffice for British films hit 28% in 2007, a healthy jump from 2006's 19% and the third highest since records have been kept, with such examples as "Mr. Bean's Holiday" earning £22 million ($43 million) and "Hot Fuzz" taking £20 million ($39.1 million) at the U.K. boxoffice.

The council stats span films with production budgets of £500,000 ($978,000) and above and include the U.K. expenditure of indigenous British film production, inward investment, inward co-productions and U.K. co-productions filmed both in the U.K. and abroad using British crew and expertise during 2007.

Stats show that the U.K. was involved in the production of 112 feature films in 2007, down from 135 the previous year. The 112 include 58 U.K. features, up from 54 in 2006, 26 inward investment films from 28 in 2006 and 28 U.K. co-productions, sliding from 53 in 2006.

Films falling under the inward investment category included David Yates' "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd," Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" and Jean-Marc Vallee's "The Young Victoria."

U.K. titles include Beeban Kidron's "Hippie Hippie Shake," Julian Jarrold's "Brideshead Revisited," Mike Leigh's "Happy Go Lucky" and Oliver Parker and Barnaby Thompson's "St. Trinian's."

Woodward said that 2007 was "a strong year for film production in the U.K. and infinitely better than everyone was predicting this time last year."

He said there is "clear evidence" in the stats to suggest "that yet again the U.K. has shown its strength by making both the bigger budget commercial films alongside smaller equally powerful films."

Said Woodward: "Inevitably we have been affected by the weak dollar against stronger international currencies and the bedding down of the structure of the new tax credit for the different types of film being produced in the U.K."

Looking forward to 2008, Woodward and his team are anticipating a tough year.

"On the production front, 2008 is set to be a tougher year with the U.S. writers' strike continuing to have an impact and a possible U.S. actors' strike but thanks to the skills and creativity of our filmmaking talent we are in a good place to ride it out," Woodward said.

But he predicts a healthy boxoffice for the year, with a new James Bond adventure, "Harry Potter" and a slew of other anticipated titles including "Brideshead" and "How to Lose Friends" all due for release.
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