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UK Film & TV Production Spend Dropped Only 21% in 2020 Despite Pandemic – Read BFI’s Annual Stats

The UK’s film and high-end TV industries understandably recorded a downturn in 2020, with the pandemic initially causing a complete shutdown before gradual recovery saw the year’s fourth quarter post impressive numbers.

As per fresh stats from the British Film Institute, film and TV spend on Brit shores was £2.84B for the year, down a surprisingly slim 21% on the year before. Film bore the brunt of that decline – 31% down for the year in comparison with 11% for high-end TV.

After the industry followed the wider country into full lockdown mode in March, Jurassic World: Dominion was the first large-scale film production to head back into production in the UK, with Universal implementing a then-unprecedented set of Covid-19 protocols that saw more than 40,000 tests conducted at an overall additional cost of up to $8M. Fox Networks Group and Canal+’s War Of The Worlds followed as the first major high-end drama to get itself upright in July.

A stuttering start, which saw numerous Covid-related delays on productions such as The Batman when Robert Pattinson caught Covid, gained momentum towards the end of the year. Today’s BFI stats reveal that Q4 saw recovery to the extent that production spend hit a more-than-healthy $1.19B, the second highest three-month total on record.

Overall, foreign money (inward investment) reached £2.36B, accounting for 91% of the total spend on film (£1.24B) and 76% of the total spend on TV (£1.13B).

UK domestic production was at £119.5M, representing 9% of overall spend – that was 43% down on the previous year, continuing a downward trend which was accelerated by the circumstances.

The box office also took a heavy hit, with cinemas closed for much of the year. In total, 44 million admissions were registered, 75% down on 2019. The total box office of £307M across the UK and Ireland was an 81% drop.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden called the figures “impressive” and said the industry was showing its “resilience and creativity”. He praised the gov’s Film and TV Restart Scheme, which is providing an insurance backstop for production and has now been extended to April, as well as the Cultural Recovery Fund, which has provided grants to organizations such as cinemas.

BFI chief exec Ben Roberts added that the figures “show an incredibly vibrant and positive picture for film and TV in the UK” after a tough year. “This sector is primed to grow with expansion underway in studios and production hot spots across the UK, delivering more jobs and more to the economy,” he added.

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission, said production recovery was “well underway” and that demand for content was “greater than ever before”.

“Film and high-end TV have an important role to play in the UK’s economy, providing UK plc with billions of pounds into the nations and regions and supporting hundreds and thousands of jobs,” he added.

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