U.K. Admissions, Box Office Up While Hollywood Backed Movie Shoots Fall In 2012

Woman in Black Daniel Radcliffe Candle light - H 2012
CBS Films

Woman in Black Daniel Radcliffe Candle light - H 2012

The latest numbers from the British Film Institute indicate a slump fall in big budget productions using U.K. facilities despite an uptick in Hollywood investment on U.K. shores.

LONDON -- Cinema admissions and box office during 2012 are on track to beat the previous year's totals but inward investment -- cash flowing into production for overseas, dominated by Hollywood studio backed projects – fell last year.

According to the latest figures from the British Film Institute's research and statistics unit, cinema admissions increased by half a percent percent in 2012 to reach $172.5 million, the second highest level in history, bringing in over $1.57 billion (£1 billion) at the box office.

British movies from mainstream blockbusters such as Skyfall and Prometheus to independent British films such as The Woman in Black, The Iron Lady, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel helped give the U.K. a combined market share of 32 percent.

STORY: 'Skyfall' Becomes Biggest UK Box Office Success

The stats, published Thursday, indicate that 22.9 percent of the market was cornered by US studio-backed films and nine percent was corralled by British independent films.

With the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations gaining massive public attention and participation, the early summer marked an "unsurprising downturn" in cinema business.

But some of the weekend box office results during the national celebration period were among the highest of the year.

During the second weekend of the Olympic Games, including the 'Super Saturday' that produced three gold medals for Team Great Britain in the space of an hour, the weekend box office tally was the sixth highest weekend of the year of 2012.

Movies on release during that period included Ted and The Dark Knight Rises.

The Bond film Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig, most of which was shot in the U.K. during 2012, was also the overall U.K. box office leader by the year end, taking $161 million (£102 million) and still currently playing in cinemas.

Other US-studio backed U.K. films, featuring British filmmakers, crew, studios and locations included The Dark Knight Rises, Prometheus and War Horse.

And while 2012 also posted an increase in investment in U.K. production facilities with the opening of the new $158 million (£100 million) Warner Bros purchased Leavesden Studios facility as well as the studio’s investment in London sound studio De Lane Lea, there was a drop in inward investment in production.

Pinewood Studios also opened its Richard Attenborough sound stage and is planning to double the capacity of the studios as well as investing directly in feature film projects.

Despite the investment in infrastructure and filmmaking facilities, spearheaded by Warner Bros' investment in the U.K. facilities, the BFI's research unit noted international inward investment movies post a drop in the number of films being made.

The unit said the corresponding fall in the amount of production spend "reflects a flattening out of global film production investment."

A total of 26 films including All You Need is Kill for Warner Bros and starring Tom Cruise, Red 2 for Lionsgate/Summit with Bruce WillisJack Ryan for Paramount with Chris Pine, Fast and Furious 6 and Kick Ass 2 both for Universal contributed $995 million (£631 million) in 2012, compared to the 34 films in 2011 which spent $1.57 billion (£1 billion).

While still finalizing the figures for 2012, the BFI's research unit also flagged up that the production spend on Skyfall -- a film with a reported budget of around $200 million -- was accounted for in 2011 although it filmed in the U.K. through to May 2012.

Roy Button, executive vice president and managing director of Warner Bros. Productions said: "Warner Bros. is a major producer of feature films here in the UK. Our continued investment in film and TV infrastructure demonstrates the company’s commitment to the U.K. and underlines our belief in the world-class talent that resides on these shores."

Walt Disney Pictures has also continued to come to the U.K.

Maleficent starring Angelina Jolie and Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World both shot in the UK in 2012.

Tony To, executive vice president of production of Disney, said the studio's continuing use of the U.K. to shoot is down to "world class crews, quality vendors, local talent and spectacular locations."

Disney’s Muppets sequel, based at Pinewood Studios, is one of several high-profile studio features confirmed to shoot in the UK in 2013.

BFI CEO Amanda Nevill said: "Although there was a dip in inward investment in 2012, an upturn in the latter part of the year coupled with bullish private investment in response to global demand for our services and skills signals buoyancy and confidence in the future."

The total investment in U.K. based film production in 2012 was $1.46 billion (£927 million), a 29 percent drop on 2011’s record-breaking $2 billion (£1.29 billion).

The total includes increased production investment for local U.K. productions and co-productions.

2012’s leading U.K. independent film release The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe in his first post-Harry Potter movie role, became the fifth biggest independent U.K. film to be released with over $33 million (£21 million) at the UK box office.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel took $32.2 million (£20.4 million) while The Iron Lady and Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger! scored more than $14.2 million (£9 million) each. 

Said Nevill: "The box office figures show that film is a vital part of the U.K.’s cultural life and as an industry it is making a significant contribution to the economy and to employment. Audiences are clearly going to see British films and the prominence of British films and talent during the awards season, is another good indicator of the creative success of the UK film industry."

UK films accounted for $1.4 billion (£900 million) of investment across 218 films.

Within this figure there was an increase in the amount of investment in U.K. films such as Belle, Spike Island, The Invisible Woman and Les Miserables, totaling $352.4 million (£223.5 million), a 16 percent increase on 2011’s $303 million (£192 million), although fewer films went into production -- 159 compared to 238.

British Film Commission and Film London CEO Adrian Wootton said the figures "demonstrate that the U.K. production industry continues to see commitment from the international marketplace, particularly from the US.

Wootton said that although 2011’s record-breaking figures have not been equaled as there were fewer features shot last year with comparatively lower budgets, "encouragingly, the U.K. started to see an upturn in production during the latter half of 2012."

Iain Smith, producer and chair of the BFC, added: "Whilst there has been a reduction in the levels of global feature film production, there is no doubt the U.K. has maintained its hard won market share."

Pinewood Studios Group chief executive Ivan Dunleavy said the stats "should be viewed in the context of the underlying, consistent performance of the U.K.’s film sector" adding that the numbers point "to continued, strong production activity and underpins our confidence in the growing UK film industry and its future."

British government culture minister Ed Vaizey said: "The great facilities and skilled workforce in the U.K., along with the film tax relief, are continuing to attract British and international filmmakers, helping ensure that this dynamic industry will continue to be an important vehicle for driving economic growth."