Figures released by the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit show the spend on high-end television and film production in the UK in 2018 reached £3.1 billion. 

This is the second highest year on record, following 2017’s record performance of £3.28 billion.

2018’s spend on high-end television productions made in the UK was £1.173 billion across 119 productions; an increase of 4% on 2017’s consolidated spend of £1.13 billion and also the highest level of spend since the introduction of tax relief.  

Of the 119 high-end TV titles, 55 were domestic UK productions with a spend of £378.0 million, a 19% increase from the consolidated spend of £319 million in 2017.  Domestic UK high-end TV titles include Luther, Tin Star, The War of the Worlds, The ABC Murders, The Cry, Ghosts, Derry Girls, Torville & Dean, Death and Nightingales, Clique, Gold Digger and The Trial of Christine Keeler.

The 64 inward investment and co-production high-end TV productions delivered an interim spend of £794.5 million which is the second highest level since reporting began.  Although the 2018 interim spend is a decrease of 2% on 2017’s consolidated spend of £810.7 million, at this point last year the interim spend was £684.0 million across 49 productions.   High-end international TV productions made in the UK last year include The Crown, Krypton, The Rook, The Spanish Princess, His Dark Materials, Pennyworth, Four Weddings and a Funeral.   High-end TV productions due to go into production this year include The War of the Worlds, Dracula, Alex Rider and Outlander, which has been based in Scotland since 2013, has been recommissioned for a further two seasons.

The year saw 202 feature films go into production with an interim total spend of £1.924 billion, the second highest recorded level of production spend on record.  This interim spend figure is an 11% decrease on 2017’s record consolidated spend in 2017 of £2.153 billion, however the two annual spend figures are not like-for-like. At this point last year, the interim production spend reported across all categories of film productions was £1.91 billion (later consolidated at £2.15 billion), so the 2018 spend indicates a level of consistency in spend. Consolidated spend figures for 2018 will be published later this year.   

Of the 202 films which went into production in 2018, 131 were domestic UK films with a total interim spend of £295.3 million, up 17% from £253 million last year.  

Films made in the UK in 2018 and in the pipeline for release in 2019/2020 includes both inward investment blockbusters such as JJ Abrams’ Star Wars Episode IX, Kenneth Branagh’s Artemis Fowl, Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman, Stephen Gaghan’s The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, Michael Engler’s Downton Abbey, Gavin Hood’s Official Secrets, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984, Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts, Rob Letterman’s Pokemon: Detective Pikachu; and independent UK films including  Danny Boyle’s All You Need Is Love, Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light, Romola Garai’s Outside, Rupert Goold’s Judy, Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour, Marc Munden’s The Secret Garden, Billie Piper’s Rare Beasts and Richard Starzak’s Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.  

At the time of reporting, 20 animation television programmes went into production in the UK in 2018, with a spend of £39.6 million. Of these, 15 were domestic UK productions and 5 were inward investment or co-productions. However, there is a significant time-lag with animation data, with the interim 2017 spend of £54.1 million across 21 productions rising to £70.7 million spend across 46 productions later in the year. 

Animation programmes that went into production in 2018 include Norm of the Forest, Jessy & Nessy, Hey Duggee Series 3, Bing Series 4, Go Jetters Series 3 and Clangers Series 3. 

Margot James, Digital and Creative Industries Minister said:  “These statistics confirm yet again that the UK is truly a global powerhouse for the screen industries, with a strong showing from our independent film sector.  Billions of pounds are spent every year on film and high-end TV in the UK, and we will continue to back the sector to further strengthen this success story."

Amanda Nevill CBE, CEO of the BFI, said: "In a time of seismic change, today’s figures prove that film and television are thriving, a vital creative industry that is outstripping other sectors. With spend for film and high-end television production at almost £3.1 billion, we remain one of the most in demand places in the world to create moving image content. The benefits are being felt UK-wide with production expanding in the nations and regions, boosting the economy, building skills, creating jobs and giving opportunities for people of all backgrounds to join our industry. Film is a global business and our creativity and talent remain one of the UK’s most potent exports as we navigate new relationships internationally. Audiences are increasingly watching film and television on a variety of platforms and at the same time are going to the cinema more than ever. Such a healthy market share for independent UK films suggests that audiences’ appreciation for home grown stories, as well as big global blockbusters, is on the rise.”

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission and Film London, said: “It is hugely rewarding to see today’s figures reflecting the UK’s flourishing screen sectors. Film and high-end TV are big business and year after year we are privileged to welcome inward investment productions to every region and nation of the UK, drawn here by our global reputation as a leading centre for world-class talent, facilities and technical expertise. This demand, and our collective success in consistently delivering at the highest level, ensures we are able to continue driving economic growth and job creation, which in turn provides training opportunities for talent from every background. Such is the volume of incoming projects, throughout 2018 we saw significant increases in the value of film and HETV based in the UK the previous year – increases of 10% and 18% respectively – so we look forward to revisiting 2018’s inward investment figures later in the year.”

Jon Creamer

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