SCREEN FILM SUMMIT: Statistics from the British Film Institute (BFI) also show the need for UK growth in Asia.

Just 7% of UK films make a profit, according to figures revealed at the BFI Southbank this morning at the Screen Film Summit.

David Steele, acting head of research and statistics at the BFI, presented the figures which looked at 613 British films produced or co-produced in the UK from 2003-2010.

The stats showed that just 3.1% of films with budgets under £500,000 turned a profit. The numbers increase as budgets rise:

  • £0.5m-£2m: 4.1%
  • £2m-£5m: 4.6%
  • £5m-£10m: 12.1%
  • £10m+: 17.4%

Speaking on stage, Steele said: “What does one do faced with those sorts of numbers? Clearly, portfolio investment is necessary to negate the risk and secondly, qualitative judgement. Try to choose filmmakers projects that have above average chance of making a profit. Some can do that better than others.”

The figures only included theatrically released films and were calculated using a statistical method of estimated profitability that the BFI developed by looking at a large dataset of lottery funded films.

“We’re fairly confident in the accuracy,” added Steele.

Underpowered in Asia

Steele also highlighted that while the UK remains the third largest film market in the world – after the US and Japan – China will overtake in the coming years.

“China is at number six but is moving up fast and is expected to take over the UK in 2018,” said Steele. “After many years of relative stability, the China factor is going to disrupt things in the next few years.”

Turning to exporting UK films, Steele noted there was work to be done to foster relations in Asia.

“We are strong in the EU and US but underpowered in Asia and the rest of the world,” he stated. “So in the most rapidly growing part of the world economy we are underpowered so something has to be done, like trade delegations to China, to crack those markets.”

BFI CEO Amanda Nevill is in China this week with the Prime Minister to beef up British film’s presence in the country.

He added: “It’s a challenge but a lot of those of those markets use administrative controls to semi-protect their markets so it’s not just a case of a level playing field. There are considerable institutional barriers to be overcome as well as marketing barriers.”


Looking 10 years into the future, Steele said cinema would continue to flourish as “people love the experience and watching a film with others will still be special”.

He also predicted that wide-release films will continue to retain a theatrical window as “many consumers are unaware and not hostile to the gap between release and home entertainment”.

However, he said that most narrow release films would go day-and-day with VoD and prove promotional for these smaller features.

With a third of all new TVs currently sold being smart TVs, he predicted that nearly all sets would be internet connected by 2023, with VoD completely replacing physical video.

He added that feature films would be made with short-form spin-offs for the mobile market.