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Spend on film and high-end TV production in the U.K. fell just 21 percent in 2020 compared with 2019, according to official figures released by the British Film Institute.
With the coronavirus pandemic forcing months of halted filming, particularly in the months from March 2020, the dip might have been expected to have been considerable greater. But thanks to strong first and last quarters, the overall total reached £2.84 billion ($1.6 billion), compared to 2019’s £3.6 billion.
According to the BFI, 2020 started strongly and had been heading towards a record production spend for the first quarter. But by the end of March, around the start of the first lockdown, production had suspended with only some post-production, VFX and animation able to continue.
Physical production started to resume from mid-July. With COVID-19 filming protocols in place and bolstered by the U.K. government and BFI-backed insurance scheme, the final quarter of the year saw a strong resumption in production activity, generating a £1.19 billion spend ($1.62 billion), 38 percent higher than the previous three months and the second-highest quarterly result on record.
In total across 2020, film production reached £1.36 billion ($1.85 billion) thanks to major studio titles such as The Batman, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3, Jurassic World: Dominion and The Little Mermaid. Meanwhile, spend on high-end TV — including major shows like The Witcher and Sex Education — hit £1.49 billion, only 11 percent down from 2019.
“After an unbelievably tough year, today’s figures show an incredibly vibrant and positive picture for film and TV in the U.K.,” said BFI chief executive Ben Roberts. “Last spring it was hard to imagine that we would be generating £1 billion worth of production activity in the final quarter which has been achieved by industry and government pulling together and the determination of our workforce to get back up and running.
Roberts added: “This sector is primed to grow with expansion underway in studios and production hot spots across the U.K., delivering more jobs and more to the economy. It’s been a challenging year for cinemas but we remain optimistic for the day when we can welcome back audiences and it’s brilliant to see some of the U.K.’s greatest talent making big pictures such as 1917 which topped the box office before the pandemic hit.”
Despite the positivity from the BFI’s results, spending on domestic British films took a major nosedive, generating a spend of just £119.5 million ($162 million), down 43 percent on 2019. For high-end TV, however, local production spend fell just 4 percent, accounting for £354 million ($485 million).
“As today’s figures show, production recovery in the U.K. is well underway and demand for content is not only still there, but in fact greater than ever before,” said Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission. “Our sector, like many, has faced unprecedented challenges, but thanks to the sheer talent of our workforce and the creative and technological innovation of our companies and infrastructure, we were swift in developing ways of continuing to produce outstanding content. Film and high-end TV have an important role to play in the U.K.’s economy, providing U.K. plc with billions of pounds into the nations and regions and supporting hundreds and thousands of jobs.”
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