NZ production revenue up 11% in 2008

Big studio projects drive domestic and international growth

SYDNEY -- Production of big-budget studio films meant U.S. financing was the largest contributor to the New Zealand production sector in fiscal 2008, government agency Statistics NZ said Friday in its annual Screen Industry Survey.

U.S. sources for films including James Cameron's "Avatar" and "Underworld: Rise of the Lycans" increased their funding contribution more than any other country, to NZ$340 million ($190 million) from NZ$161million in 2007. New Zealand, with such projects as Peter Jackson's upcoming "The Lovely Bones," was the next-largest contributor with NZ$276 million, while other major financing came from Australia and Asia, the agency said.

Revenue tallied up by the industry including film and TV production financing, sales and royalties, topped NZ$2.75 billion ($1.53 billion) in the 2008, up 11% from 2007 figures.

Increasing post, digital and visual effects work and an increase in the value of the NZ dollar have helped push production revenue past NZ$1.2 billion, up a whopping 18%. Financing for feature film and TV production totaled NZ $644 million, with more than 55% of that going to produce feature films.

"Film New Zealand is very pleased that New Zealand's competitive advantage as a destination for all types of screen production from feature films, television dramas, documentaries, reality shows and commercials overcame the strength of our dollar during a period of some turmoil in the global entertainment market," said Julian Grimmond, chair of national film office Film NZ.

With an expanded range of incentives, including the new Screen Production Incentive Fund introduced last July, and grants for Large Budget Screen Production and Post-production/ Digital/Visual Effects, New Zealand's screen industry is continuing the growth trend into 2009, Grimmond added.