U.K. TV Tax Credit Injects Nearly $400 Million in Economy in First Year

6:20 AM PST 01/30/2014 by Stuart Kemp
Screengrab/HBO
HBO's "Game of Thrones" is one big-budget TV series to take advantage of the U.K.'s new TV tax relief scheme.

"24: Live Another Day," the reboot of Fox's hit series starring Kiefer Sutherland, is shooting in Britain, taking advantage of the new tax scheme, which was introduced in April last year.

LONDON – Tax breaks for high-end television production to shoot in the U.K. have delivered more than $386 million (£233 million) to the British economy in its first nine months in operation, according to U.K. production statistics published on Thursday.

The TV tax breaks were introduced in April 2013, targeting big-budget TV series. The TV tax system is modeled on the U.K.'s highly successful scheme for film tax relief, which brought in more than $1.4 billion (£868 million) in inward investment to Britain last year.

Figures from the British Film Institute’s research and statistics unit indicate the U.K. remains a popular destination for international productions.

Money spent on movies in the U.K. passed the $1 billion mark in 2013, with $1.4 billion generated from 37 visiting features, making up 81 percent of all feature film spend in the territory.

Much of that total relies on the continued patronage of Hollywood here, with Sony Pictures and 20th Century Fox’s The Monuments Men, directed by and starring George Clooney; 20th Century Fox's Exodus, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Christian Bale and Aaron Paul; Disney’s Cinderella, starring Cate Blanchett and Helena Bonham Carter; and Warner Bros.’ Heart of the Sea, directed by Ron Howard. Television dramas that took advantage of the tax scheme to shoot in the U.K. last year include Game of Thrones (in Northern Ireland), Outlander (Scotland) as well as episodes of Elementary and Veep (in England's South East). 24: Live Another Day, the reboot of the hit, real-time thriller series starring Kiefer Sutherland, is currently shooting in Britain. Produced by Fox, Imagine Entertainment and Real Time Productions, it has Sutherland's iconic Jack Bauer character coming out of hiding in London to head off a massive terrorist attack.

The influx of high-end television production to these shores is a direct result of the U.K.’s new tax relief scheme. From a total of $386 million (£233 million) in TV production in the U.K. last year, almost $245.8 million (£150 million) came from internationally bankrolled productions. Nine big-budget shows made up 64 percent of the total spend -- much of which would have been spent outside the U.K. prior the new incentive.

The British Film Commission said those figures, along with the ongoing Hollywood patronage -- which this year includes Disney’s Alice in Wonderland sequel Through the Looking Glass, which stars Johnny Depp and Mia Wasikowska, Marvel's The Avengers: Age of Ultron and the next Star Wars film -- show that the film and television industries are delivering for the U.K. economy.

Adrian Wootton, the chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London said: "As the statistics demonstrate, the Film Tax Relief continues to prove itself to be a resounding success, as well as a cornerstone of growth in the U.K.’s wider creative industries. Since the launch of the new tax relief in April, the BFC has been working to promote their benefits and our first-class production industries to the world. It is therefore hugely gratifying to see that paying off by welcoming so many high-end television productions in such a relatively short space of time."

According to the BFI stats, the U.K. film production sector generated a total spend of $1.65 billion (£1.075 billion) in 2013, a 14 percent increase on 2012’s $1.56 billion (£945 million).

Other titles that shot in Britain last year, with backing from Hollywood and beyond, include The Man From U.N.C.L.E and Jupiter Ascending for Warner Bros, which owns U.K.-based Warner Leavesden Studios; Muppets Most Wanted, Cinderella and Into the Woods for Walt Disney, which has a partnership with Pinewood Studios; Guardians of the Galaxy for Marvel; Far From the Madding Crowd for Fox Searchlight; Ex-Machina, The Secret Service, Frankenstein, Monuments Men (with Sony) and Exodus (with Scott Free) for 20thCentury Fox; Modecai for Lionsgate; Good People and Before I Go To Sleep for Millennium Films; and Paddington for StudioCanal.

With 2014 looking to be every bit as busy, the U.K. is set to have to battle against over capacity at existing facilities.

The BFI is, for the first time, reporting investment connected to high-end television and television animation production, although the statistics only cover nine months, from last April, when the new tax relief for high-end television and animation was introduced.

Domestic U.K. film production saw a similar number of films budgeted at $828,000 (£500,000) and upwards made during the year (62 in 2013, down from 65 in 2012), but the total spend of these films was lower -- $230.3 million (£139 million), down from 2012’s $379 million (£229 million).

The number of co-productions was 36, down from 45 in 2012 and with a production spend of $89 million (£54 million), down from $124 million (£75 million) in 2012 and included The Trip to Italy, directed by Michael Winterbottom, Saul Dibb's Suite Française, Frank from Lenny Abrahamson and Ben Hopkins' Epic.

U.K. films that went into production in 2013 include yet-to-be-seen Mike Leigh's Mr Turner, Kevin Macdonald's Black Sea, Corinna McFarlane's The Silent Storm and Jon Wright's Our Robot Overlords.

2013 marked the third consecutive year that the overall U.K. box office crossed the £1 billion barrier, though total takings were down 1 percent from the previous year.  Admissions continue to plateau over the past decade, with 165.5 million tickets sold, a 4 percent dip from 2012.

BFI CEO Amanda Nevill said: "Film and television is a global business and these statistics show a vibrant and dynamic picture, demonstrating that the U.K. is a leading international player in this sector. We are grateful for the government’s ongoing recognition of the sector’s growth potential and tax reliefs for film, high-end TV and animation, which ensure we remain one of the most attractive and competitive places in the world to do business."

U.K. government finance chief George Osborne said: "Today’s figures highlight the valuable cultural and economic contribution that our creative industries make to the U.K. These fast-growing sectors are creating jobs across the country and each new job means security for another family. I want to build on this success and showcase the world-class talent this country has, encouraging more films and TV programs to be made here."

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