The British Film Institute (BFI) has reported a 29% drop in UK production spend following a record-breaking 2011 but an upsurge of investment in British independent films.

The latest figures reveal a positive picture for UK investment in domestic features that started shooting in 2012 - such as Les Misérables and Cuban Fury - with spend rising to £223.5m in 2012 from £192.4m in 2011.

UK spend on co-productions in the UK was also up, with features including I Give It a Year and Long Walk to Freedom totalling £73.2 in 2012 from £62.3m the previous year.

The number of domestic features which went into production in the UK dropped from 238 to 159. However, the higher spend on these productions would suggest that although fewer films have been made they had had bigger budgets.

Inward investment drop

A more dramatic drop is reported for “inward investment feature films”, which has plummeted to £630.6m from a record-breaking £1.04bn in 2011.

The 26 films (down from 34 in 2011) that made up this spend include Warner Bros’ All You Need Is Kill, Universal’s Fast and Furious 6 and Paramount’s Jack Ryan among others.

Factors cited behind the drop include a possible knock-on effect from an overall downturn in production and tightening of budgets, as well as scheduling. James Bond blockbuster Skyfall began principal photography in 2011 so its whole production spend is allocated to that year, although it continued to shoot at Pinewood through the first half of 2012.

The BFI also reports a significant upswing in production spend during the second half of the year, largely due to incoming international films. 

Combining co-pros, domestic and inward investment, the overall UK spend of features in 2012 was £927m, a 29% drop on 2011’s £1.29bn.

The year ahead appears positive with several large studio projects set for production in the UK in 2013, such as Warner Bros’ Jupiter Ascending, and Disney’s sequel to The Muppets, which began principal photography this month.

Bond tops box office

The latest figures also showed that cinema admissions increased by 0.5% in 2012 to reach 172.5 million – the second highest level of the last decade – generating nearly £1.1bn at the box office, up 6% on 2011.

British films from blockbusters such as Skyfall and Prometheus to independent titles including The Woman in Black, The Iron Lady and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel gave the UK a combined market share of 32%. This can be broken down into 22.9% for US studio-backed films and 9% for indies.

Skyfall led the UK box office, taking £102m and is still playing in cinemas.

The year’s leading UK independent film release was chiller The Woman in Black, which made more than £21m in domestic box office takings.

Amanda Nevill, CEO of the BFI, said:“It is encouraging for the UK to see an increase in investment in independently produced British films and British co-productions. Although there was a dip in inward investment in 2012, an upturn in the latter part of the year coupled with bullish private investment in response to global demand for our services and skills signals buoyancy and confidence in the future.”

Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London, said: “Today’s figures demonstrate that the UK production industry continues to see commitment from the international marketplace, particularly from the US.

“Although 2011’s record-breaking figures have not been equaled as there were fewer features shot last year with comparatively lower budgets, encouragingly, the UK started to see an upturn in production during the latter half of 2012.

Top 20 films released in the UK and Republic of Ireland, 2012

Rank/TitleBox office (£m)
1. Skyfall*102.26
2. The Dark Knight Rises56.26
3. Avengers Assemble51.87
4. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey*50.00
5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2*35.67
6. Ted30.42
7. Ice Age: Continental Drift30.26
8. The Amazing Spider-Man25.94
9. Prometeus24.75
10. Life of Pi*24.15
11. The Hunger Games24.05
12. Taken 223.52
13. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted*22.48
14. Men In Black 322.24
15. Brave*22.16
16. The Woman in Black21.33
17. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel20.43
18. War Horse18.63
19. American Pie: Reunion17.00
20. The Muppets16.82


Top 20 independent UK films released in the UK and Republic of Ireland, 2012

Rank/TitleBox office (£m)
1. The Woman in Black21.33
2. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel20.43
3. The Iron Lady9.90
4. Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger!*9.12
5. Salmon Fishing in the Yemen6.23
6. The Sweeney4.49
7. Dredd 3D4.36
8. Seven Psychopaths*3.12
9. StreetDance 23.10
10. Keith Lemon: The Film2.91
11. Shame2.04
12. Great Expectations*2.02
13. The Angels’ Share1.93
14. Gambit1.27
15. The Imposter1.13
16. The Wedding Video1.08
17. Housefull 20.99
18. Marley0.99
19. Coriolanus0.90
20. Shadow Dancer0.80
  • Source: Rentrak, BFI RSU analysis
  • Box office gross = cumulative gross up to 20 January 2013.
  • Films with an asterisk (*) were still being exhibited on 20 January 2013.
  • UK and Republic of Ireland are a single “territory” for film distribution purposes.