U.S. pics boost U.K. bank

Studio titles drive o'seas investment

Inward investment — overseas cash invested in filmmaking here — stood at £324 million ($667.5 million) for the first six months of the year compared with £253 million for the first half of 2006 thanks to films like "Sweeney Todd" and "The Dark Knight," according to the latest report from the U.K. Film Council.

Overall, the first six months of 2007 saw £420 million ($865.3 million) pumped into film production in the U.K. both here and from abroad, hitting the same combined levels as the year-ago period.

U.K. co-productions plummeted from 42 in the first half of 2006 to just nine in the first six months of 2007, the Council said.

But such productions "have significantly picked up" in the third quarter of 2007, with another 20 co-productions made in the U.K., bringing the total this year to 29.

Hollywood productions adding to the investment boom include "Mamma Mia!," "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian" and "The Tale of Desperaux."

Homegrown U.K. productions keeping the overall £420 million production figure on track include "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People," "Brides-head Revisited," "St. Trinian's," "The Edge of Love" and "Revolutionary Road."

"It's been a strong half year of consolidation for film production in the U.K. Currently, domestic films are steady, and we've had strong inward investment from the U.S. again this year," U.K. Film Council CEO John Woodward said. "When you couple that with the incredibly strong boxoffice for British films, you can see that the underlying trends are very healthy."

Film fans have flocked to British cinemas in 2007, with admissions hitting almost 117 million by the end of August, an increase of 12% from the same period in 2006.

And British films — which for these purposes include such titles as "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," "Mr. Bean's Holiday," "Hot Fuzz," "Miss Potter" and "Atonement" — have pushed the market share for British films at the U.K. boxoffice to 27% to date in 2007, up from 19% for the whole of 2006.

The traditional jinxes — sunny weather plus major sporting and television events — were absent, giving cinemas a golden opportunity to bolster audiences.

July hit a new record as the single biggest month for cinemagoing since January 1970, with 21.8 million tickets sold, the report said.