Film, TV and the Arts

Film, TV and the Arts

Sunday, 7 August 2011

In a time of economic strife, the UK film industry needs support

The UK Film Industry contirbuted £3.3bn to GDP in 2010. In tough times, it deserves and needs support

The Box Office figures in Britain last year (that is, the calendar year 2010) present something of a paradox. Admissions are down. Receipts are up. Only one thing can explain this: 3D.

One of the reasons why I despise 3D is that it costs more to see a 3D film than a 2D film, and that is for no reason, as far as the consumer is concerned. There is no difference in quality. We as consumers do not see any reason why we should pay more for one film over the other.

Nevertheless, at the UK Box Office last year, the success of films like Toy Story 3 have led to that upturn in overall gross (3D films contributed 24% of UK and Ireland Box Office Revenue). However, I suggest that the important figure is the more depressing one. Less people are going to the cinema.

As I write, we wait for what could well be one of the most turbulent weeks on international markets in my lifetime. The crises in Britain’s and the World’s economies are entering a second stage of hardship and turmoil. With cuts being employed to deal with the crises, people have less money to spend, and, in cinematic terms, this means fewer admissions.

Fewer people will go to the cinema in the coming years and the industry will begin to contract. The industry needs to brace itself for this.

As far as British films go, the BFI’s report is keen to herald the success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, but that is a franchise which has been and gone, and once the revenue of the second part (with 3D bonus included) has been counted, the national film industry will have a vacuum which may not be filled. British productions will need support in the coming years.

The other aspect which the report highlights is the value of big films being made in Britain from all avenues, including Bollywood and Hollywood. This remains British film’s strong point. Directors such as Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, and films like X-Men: First Class and Captain America, have all filmed here in the last year, and the appeal of filming in Britain persists – but the filmmakers could go elsewhere is the UK became economically unviable.
Only the most avid optimist would say the BFI’s report is encouraging. Tough times are ahead, even though the British film industry is strong. The key to success in the next few difficult years is to keep supporting it.

On this subject, I wrote an article for the Egremont Blog on the abolition of the UK Film Council in February. You can read that here.

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