'Star Wars,' 'Spectre' Shoots Help U.K. Production Industry to Record Year

Joel Ryan/Invision/AP
Daniel Craig and Sam Mendes at the annoucement of the London shoot of 'Spectre'

Film production in the U.K. increases 35 percent to $2.2 billion in 2014.

The year 2014 was a record one for film in the U.K., with production figures hitting an all-time high.

Official statistics released Feb.3 by the British Film Institute show an astounding 35 percent jump in film production in the U.K. last year, to $2.2 billion (£1.47 billion), the highest figure since statistics began being recorded 20 years ago. Inward investment into the U.K. shot up 40 percent to $1.85 billion (£1.23 billion), driven by British shoots of blockbusters including Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Mission: Impossible 5, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Alice in Wonderland: Through the Looking Glass and the new James Bond film Spectre.

There were plenty of independent homegrown titles too, with features such as Andrew Haigh's 45 Years, animated feature Shaun the Sheep and TV adaptation Dad's Army blocking British soundstages in 2014. According to the BFI, production spend on domestic film production jumped 28 percent last year to just over $300 million (£199.9). The British government took credit for the boost both in local and visiting productions, pointing to tax credits that encourage film and TV investment.

“The U.K. film industry is a powerhouse for growth, and I'm delighted that 2014 saw an all-time-high spend on film production,” said U.K. culture secretary Sajid Javid in a statement. "Supporting the creative industries, including our vibrant film sector, is a key part of the Government's long term economic plan, and we have worked hard to create the right environment here for the U.K. film industry to flourish. The huge amount of inward investment we are seeing is a sure fire sign that the U.K. is the best place in the world to make films."

And TV too. Changes to the U.K. tax scheme allow producers to claim rebates for high-end television and animation work as well, and the BFI's new stats are the first to show their full-year impact. The figures show a total production spend in the high-end TV market, defined as television programs with a high-production value sold and broadcast around the world, of $924 million (£615 million) in 2014. Shows that have benefited from the tax scheme include Downton Abbey, Wolf Hall, and the London-shot season of 24: Live Another Day.

“Today’s report illuminates a dynamic and vibrant story of success for the screen industries in the U.K.," said Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI. "It’s a sector alive with opportunity and energy, where creativity and fiscal policy is working hand in hand to make the UK the most exciting place on the planet to do business.”

While much of the British boom has come from outside investment, mainly from the Hollywood majors, British independents also had a great year. StudioCanal's Paddington, Paul King's live-action adaptation of Michael Bond's classic British children's tale, grossed more than $52 million (£34.7 million) in the U.K., making it the most successful British film of the year and helping push the box-office market share for homegrown indie titles to nearly 16 percent, compared with just 6 percent in 2013. Other strong indie performers included comedy The Inbetweeners 2 and dramas Philomena and Rush.

Overall box office in the U.K., however, was down 2 percent on the year, and the 157.5 million tickets sold in the territory last year marked a 5 percent drop from 2013. The BFI attributed the drop in part to the soccer World Cup last summer, noting that cinema admissions were down 20 percent in May and June.