Andy Leyshon

Source: Screen file

Andy Leyshon

Andy Leyshon, chief executive of the UK’s Film Distributors Association (FDA) has given an upbeat assessment of the UK and Ireland film release sector.

“My message would be that 2023 was a solid year, 2024 is off to a good, hopeful start and then 2025-26 looks very strong,” Leyshon said at the launch of the FDA’s annual yearbook this week.

“I’m definitely glass more than half full in comparison to some others who have been quite vocal on the box-office prospects,” Leyshon continued. “The early signs are good that 2024 can perform well, but then when you look at the promise of the 2025 and 2026 slates it is hard not to get really excited about the number.”

The top 20 films’ share of total box office fell to 56% in 2023 from 66% in 2022. Last year, the top 20 films together grossed £597m from an overall total of £1,062m at the UK and Ireland box office.

“I would like to think that split suggests we are headed toward greater diversity and choice in the market,” Leyshon said. “The first few months of this year would echo that sense with a terrific selection of films all connecting very well with different audiences.”

Data included in the yearbook revealed a record 1,013 releases were recorded in the UK and Ireland market in 2023, including event cinema.

“What it does demonstrate is the clear value in getting releases seen with the optimum presentation in the theatrical space, where audiences have the unique experience of sharing big screen visual pleasures with others,” Leyshon suggested.

During 2023, 905 releases grossed less than £1m at the box office. Some 82 titles grossed between £1 and £10m and 26 films generated over £10m. The average cinema ticket price has stayed stable at £7.86 in 2023, only up very marginally on the 2022 figure of £7.67.

UK and Ireland audience numbers in 2023 increased by 5.7% to 135m although this was still some way short of the 193m achieved in 2018.

England accounted for 78.6% of cinema box office in 2023, the Republic of Ireland for 8.2%, Scotland for 7.3% Wales for 3.2% and Northern Ireland for 2.7%.

Event cinema releases enjoyed a rapid growth in 2023, with box office revenues rising to £37.8m, up from £19.6mn in 2022, largely fuelled by Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour.

Indian films posted their biggest year to date in the UK and Ireland with £32.5m at the box office. Pathaan became the all-time top grossing Indian cinema release in UK & Ireland, grossing £4.4m.

Non-English language features in 2023 generated £20.8m in box office and 206 new titles were released, compared to £16.5m and 185 new titles in 2022.  Films were released in 30 different languages with Chinese films accounting for the highest number of releases for the first time. 

2023 also saw eOne and Pathé , two stalwart UK distribution companies, withdraw from UK theatrical. Leyshon acknowledged their successes over the years but predicted other outfits would emerge in their place. 

“Those two distributors have delivered such a wealth of films over the years and contributed so much to the sector, that their presence and personnel will definitely be missed,” he said. ‘It was sad to lose such important indie players from the territory and yet you only have to look at the rich history of our sector over the last century or more to see that such moments are cyclical. When a player departs from the market it can leave good opportunity for others to fill that space.”

No details are yet available of who will be replacing David Puttnam as FDA president. Puttnam stood down from the role at the end of 2023 after 16 years in the post.