Credit given to British film biz

Gov't support helps sector thrive

LONDON -- British film is a golden goose for the U.K's national economy, but a lack of proper care and attention could kill off the robust revenue stream, a new report warned.

The country's thriving film sector gave the British economy a £4.3 billion ($8.8 billion) shot in the arm in 2006, a 39% increase from two years ago, the last year for which figures were collated, according to U.K. Film Council research published Monday.

The industry seems to be firing on all cylinders, Film Council CEO John Woodward said, but he warned that without continued support from the government in terms of tax credits, the film business will dwindle and highly skilled workers will move abroad.

"This is about accepting and acknowledging that growing the strength of the U.K. film market involves support from the government," Woodward said.

The research found that, after taking into account the new film tax relief plan introduced in the spring, the cost of producing a film in the U.K. is set to fall and by 2010 will be about 27% less than the cost of producing it in the U.S. and only 7% higher than the Czech Republic.

"If there were no tax incentives from 2008 onward, we estimate this loss of competitiveness would reduce the U.K.'s share of global film production from 11% to just 2%," Woodward said.

Carried out by independent agency Oxford Economics and supported by Pinewood Shepperton, the report took into account the broad contribution from the film industry across employment, production, distribution and the supply chain as well as tourism.

Total exports of the film industry in 2006 stood at £967 million ($2 billion), with a net contribution of £163 million ($335.5 million) to the U.K. balance of payments. Capital investment in the film industry was estimated at £120 million ($247 million) for that year. The report said 33,500 people were directly employed in the film industry in 2006.

As contributors to the upswing, Woodward pointed to smaller films such as Andrea Arnold's "Red Road" and Ken Loach's Irish-set "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" as Cannes prize winners; to medium-size films like "The Queen" and "The Constant Gardener" that "get us to the Oscars"; and to boxofice blockbusters like the "Harry Potter" and James Bond films.

The report attributed one in 10 visits to the U.K. to the impact of films.
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