U.K. Film and TV Inward Investment Drops 39% Following Strikes

The U.K.’s film and TV industry took a massive hit following last year’s writers and actors strikes, latest figures show.

While the U.K.’s production industry continues to generate billions, inward investment spend on film and high-end TV dropped to £3.31 billion ($4.22 billion) in 2023, a drop of 39 percent on 2022’s £5.37 billion. According to a new report by the British Film Institute, overall spend for 2023 was £4.23 billion ($5.3 billion), down 32 percent on 2022’s £6.27 billion.

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The previous two years had seen record figures thanks to the U.K.’s robust COVID response as well as a concurrent production bottle-neck.

The latest total, published by the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit, is on par with pre-pandemic numbers.

Worryingly — but in line with predictions – the majority of that spend (£2.9 billion) came from just 168 high-end TV shows, including fare such as “Slow Horses,” “Doctor Who” and “The Crown.” Last year a total of 207 films went into production in the U.K., 13 fewer than in 2022.

Feature production contributed only 33% (£1.36 billion) of the total spend, of which 77% (£1.04 billion) came from inward investment thanks to big budget Hollywood films such as “Beetlejuice 2” and “Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire” being made in the U.K. Domestic U.K. feature productions accounted for just 11% of the total film spend with £150.2 million. Co-production spend accounted for 12%.

Last year producers body Pact wrote to the U.K. government to warn them that the U.K.’s indie film sector “is now at the point of market failure.”

“Challenging market conditions, increased cost of talent and crew and changing viewing habits have made it increasingly difficult for indie films to compete with HETV [high-end TV] and big budget U.S. Studio films,” stated the letter, which was submitted as part of a consultation organized by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport.

The U.K.’s top grossing indie film was “The Great Escaper,” which took £5.31 million at the box office. By comparison, “Barbie,” the U.K.’s highest grossing film of 2023, took £95.6 million (9% of the country’s total annual box office.)

Meanwhile, when the TV figures are broken down, the BFI’s report shows a whopping 72% (£2.07 billion) came from inward investment while U.K. domestic shows accounted for only 27% (£766 million). The good news is that still represents a 21% increase of high-end U.K. shows year-on-year.

The report also shows an incremental recovery in box office takings, with 2023’s total up by 4% to £985.8 million. That number still lags behind pre-pandemic times, however, with 2019’s box office 24% higher.

“The production and box office figures that we have published today reflect the different dynamics at play across our sector,” said BFI CEO Ben Roberts. “Whilst a level of film and high-end television production in the U.K. was disrupted by strikes in 2024, our industry continues to contribute billions to the U.K. economy and support a huge range of jobs. At the same time, audiences showed up in record numbers for must-see movies including ‘Barbie,’ ‘Oppenheimer’ and ‘Wonka’ all of which exemplify the talent and artistry of so many U.K. creatives.”

“And despite notable recent successes such as ‘The Great Escaper,’ ‘Rye Lane,’ ‘Scrapper,’ ‘The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry’ and ‘Polite Society,’ we cannot ignore that the statistics also highlight concerns for lower budget U.K. films, increasingly challenged in securing finance and visibility. Our work and commitment in this area continues.”

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