UK film and TV production spend fell by just 21% in 2020, despite effect of COVID-19

Tom Beasley
·2 min read
Film and TV production in the UK is starting up again in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Credit: Getty)
Film and TV production in the UK is starting up again in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Credit: Getty)

The UK film and TV production sector has showed a remarkable ability to bounce back from its pandemic shutdown, buoyed by a spectacular final quarter of 2020.

This year’s figure of £2.84bn is 21% down on 2019 overall, but the final quarter figure of £1.19bn across film and high-end TV was the second highest on record, according to the BFI.

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Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the encouraging recent figures “show the resilience and creativity of the UK screen industries”.

Along with much of the world, Britain was forced to shut down its productions in March as the coronavirus spread across the nation and it was only in mid-July that cameras were able to begin rolling again.

Inward investment and co-production — which includes major blockbusters like Mission: Impossible 7 and The Batmanwas responsible for 91% of the total spend on movie productions.

Watch: Tom Cruise shooting Mission: Impossible on UK military base

Predictably, box office figures paint a sad picture, with cinemas predominantly closed from March 2020 until the end of the year due to the effects of COVID-19.

Unsurprisingly, British cinema admissions in 2020 were 75% down in 2019.

Read more: Cinema spending might not return to normal until 2023

Sam Mendes’s technically ambitious war movie 1917 topped the UK box office for 2020, scoring £44.1m — more than double the gross of second-place film Sonic the Hedgehog (£19.3m).

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Other big winners making up the top five were Tenet (£17.5m), Bad Boys for Life (£16.2m) and Dolittle (£15.9m).

Guy Ritchie’s The Gentlemen was the highest-grossing UK indie production, earning £12m from British cinemas after its January release.

1917 (Credit: eOne)
1917 (Credit: eOne)

Ben Roberts, chief executive of the BFI, said that the production figures paint a “vibrant and positive” picture for the future of British film and TV.

He added: “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.

“It’s been a challenging year for cinemas but we remain optimistic for the day when we can welcome back audiences and it’s brilliant to see some of the UK’s greatest talent making big pictures such as 1917, which topped the box office before the pandemic hit.”

Initiatives such as the Culture Recovery Fund for Independent Cinemas in England and the Film & TV Production Restart Scheme have been vital in reinvigorating investment in UK arts.

Watch: George MacKay breaks down making of 1917