2017 has proven to be a year of unpredictability and, for many markets, things have taken a downward turn. But as fear over Brexit implications grow and political fissures continue to deepen, the British public has dusted itself off, and taken itself to the cinema.
Against an austere backdrop, the UK film and cinema industry has surged, making it the second largest contributor to the increase in services GDP, after the retail industry. A combination of growth in the UK’s film production sector, and an exceptional boost in cinema ticket sales have allowed the film market to smash through the sluggish growth of other industries.
Fuelling this surge is the increasing frequency of investment from abroad and, in particular, from Hollywood studios – attracted by significant government tax breaks and access to world class talent at a cheaper price. Major movies currently in production in the UK include such upcoming blockbusters as the next Star Wars instalment, and Tim Burton’s live-action reboot of Disney’s Dumbo – both filming at Pinewood Studios (itself in the process of major expansion).
And coupled with this healthy growth in the production sector, cinemas themselves are experiencing high tides of audience figures. UK and Ireland gross box office takings from January to June this year were £679m – up 12 per cent on the same period in 2016. In both creating and consuming movies, it appears the UK at this moment is at an all time high.
As such, jobs are also booming in the film sector, with the Department for Culture, Media and port announcing that employment in the creative industries is growing at four times the rate of the UK workforce as a whole – with the sector now employing close to two million people.
And it doesn’t stop at film. The TV production industry also appears to be in rude health, receiving a particular windfall from wealthy new platforms. Netflix offered an unprecedented sum to produce The Crown – one of the most lavish series yet seen – while Amazon Prime Video brazenly splashed out on The Grand Tour, with Jeff Bezos confessing it was a “very very very expensive” investment, but that Clarkson and co are “worth a lot of money and they know it”. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland has played host to much of HBO’s staggeringly successful Game of Thrones franchise.
Part of this growth may certainly be attributed to Brexit – the weaker pound has resulted in attractive investment opportunities, particularly for Hollywood – so the question remains as to whether this current boom will continue as the delicate political process staggers on. In any case, and regardless of the cause, the UK film industry’s current glow is certainly overdue and well-deserved.