U.K. Film Council publishes promising stats

Inward investment up, U.S. studio productions return

LONDON -- Hooray for Hollywood is the chorus from those working in movie production as the first half year figures show a resolute uptick in activity by U.S. studio-backed projects here.

The latest figures, published by the U.K. Film Council Thursday, show that inward investment levels -- cash flowing into production from overseas -- hit a six month high for 2009 not seen since 2004.

With movies such as "Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1," "Clash Of The Titans," "Gulliver's Travels" and "Never Let Me Go" all shooting here, the 48 inward investment titles account for a U.K. spend of £535.1 million ($879 million) in the first half of 2009. That compares to £363 million ($596 million) in inward investment cash during the same period in 2008.

U.K. Film Council head of research and statistics unit David Steele said the first six months was feeling the benefit of a strong recovery by the dollar against the pound making it more attractive for U.S. studios to return to the U.K. to shoot and the end of the aftermath from the uncertainties caused by the writers' and actors' disputes stateside.

The figures came as part of the U.K. Film Council's much heralded publication of its annual statistical yearbook, a hefty tome jam packed with facts and figures on the film industry.

The production figures also indicate a slight recovery in the number of homegrown movies made with budgets of more than £500,000 ($820,000), although the overall spend fell.

The 33 U.K. movies in production in the first half of 2009 carry a spend of £89.9 million ($147.7 million), compared to the previous year's 29 titles which cost £113.8 million ($187 million) to produce.

The Council says the stats indicate a fall in average budgets for U.K. local projects with the average having fallen from £5.6 million ($9.2 million) in 2003 to £3.3 million ($5.4 million) in the first half of 2009.

And the figures confirmed a damaging downward trend in the number of co-productions mounted in the first half of 2009 compared to 2008.

The research shows that only three movies were mounted as co-productions in the first six months of this year, compared to 14 in the January to June period 2008.

Anecdotally, co-productions are down to the new-look film tax relief that doesn't work for co-production structures because they only reward the U.K. spend rather than the full production budget, the Council said.

With other sectors recovering -- Hollywood cash is back and the count of U.K. productions is rising -- the Council is concentrating its efforts on persuading the Government to revisit the tax credit to improve conditions for those seeking to put a production together with European territories such as Germany, France and Spain.