U.K. Film, High-End TV Production Spend Exceeds $3.9 Billion in Pandemic Year, Down 21% on 2019 Levels

In what is the first official glimpse of the pandemic’s impact on U.K. film and television production, British Film Institute (BFI) data reveals that film and high-end television production spend exceeded £2.84 billion ($3.9 billion) in 2020, 21% down on 2019 levels.

Film production reached £1.36 billion, 31% down from a year prior, while high-end TV production topped £1.49 billion, only 11% down on 2019.

Industry recovery in the final quarter of 2020 generated £1.19 billion spend for film and high-end TV, the second highest three-month spend on record.

Inward investment and co-production spend on film and high-end television in the U.K. reached £2.36 billion, with £1.24 billion spent on feature films, representing 91% of the total (£1.36 billion) spend. Around £1.13 billion was spent on high-end TV production, making up 76% of the total (£1.49 billion) spend.

Film and television production has managed to continue throughout the COVID-19 crisis — and the U.K.’s three national lockdowns — thanks to pan-industry guidelines that were drawn up in late spring. The BFI led the Screen Sector Taskforce, creating guidance for COVID-safe productions alongside the British Film Council. The organization also worked with producers’ trade body Pact to set out the U.K.’s pioneering Film & TV Production Restart Scheme for independent production, which provided £500 million ($678 million) of funding for productions struggling to get COVID-related insurance.

Tentpoles such as “Jurassic World,” “Fantastic Beasts 3” and “Mission: Impossible 7” managed to continue shooting throughout the pandemic, along with many local productions. Indeed, even as the U.K. government warned that the country was entering the “worst weeks” of the crisis in January, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) confirmed that the film and television sectors could still continue.

A year ago, the U.K. was looking at both a record first three months of filming activity and investment in film and TV production.

Spend on film and high-end television production in the U.K. was the highest ever recorded in 2019, hitting £3.62 billion ($4.7 billion), an increase of 16%, according to British Film Institute figures. That growth was driven by high levels of international production investment in the U.K., which topped the £3 billion ($3.9 billion) mark for the first time. The figures underlined how the U.K. has cemented its place in recent years as a key global production hub, underpinned by a strong talent base, production services and attractive tax credits.

For domestic independent production, however, the 2019 figures tell a different story. The data revealed that spending on U.K. independent film production fell by 45% to £175 million ($228 million) in 2019, highlighting an unforgiving climate for independent producers.

More to come. 

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