The growth of the UK market last year helped indie film sellers to offset growing weakness in the world video markets.
According to new data from the American Film Marketing Association (AFMA) members' revenue dropped for the first time in six years. Overall sales were down 6% to $2.62bn.
In its annual survey AFMA blames a "significant decline in the video market and a worldwide softening in the value of most currencies." The theatrical sector was the highlight of the survey. Sales rose 7% to an all-time high of $849m and accounted for 32% of revenues. That compared with a drop of 6% for TV, down to $1.22bn and 21% for video, down to $554m.
The UK accounted for $295m, or 11.3% of sales, compared with $175m in 1999. Both the UK's theatrical and TV sectors were sharply up while the video market edged ahead.
Germany remained the single most valuable territory, worth $442m or 16.9% of AMFA member sales, compared with $474m and 16.7% in 1999. But the figures reflect business done in a period before the slump of the Neuer Markt sent licence trading companies into reverse and before the full consolidation of the country's TV sector into just two major "families" of channels.
Elsewhere, Japan was the second biggest market worth $327m ($12.5% of sales) and one of the few territories to show a growth in TV sales. In most other countries the impact of growing local TV production has been a cut in the amount of imported film. AFMA said that the weakening of currencies against the dollar accounted for a 10% drop in the value of its sales, rising to 13% in Western Europe, where the ECU/Euro slid 16% against the US currency. Long before the terrorist events of this autumn, the world market for independent film had softened significantly.