Film production spend hit record levels in the UK last year, rising 113% on 2002 totals, according to new figures published by the UK Film Council.
Production spend on films starting principal photography during 2003 stood at £1.17bn by year end - more than double the £550.45m spent in 2002.
The Film Council figures cover 177 features, including indigenous UK projects, inward investment productions and UK co-productions filmed both in the UK and abroad. The figures do not include television projects or films budgeted at under £500,000.
Despite burgeoning competition from other international production hubs catering for so-called 'runaway' productions, the UK still attracted 17 foreign-backed shoots in 2003 - up from 13 in 2002 - including Paramount's Alfie remake, starring Jude Law and Warner Bros' Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban. Spend increased by 85% to £409.7m, up from £221.16m in 2002.
The number of inward investment films co-produced with UK partners that shot partly or fully in the UK rose from three in 2002 to 13 last year. The combined spend of these films was £319.9m - up from £44.7m in 2002 - and included co-productions such as Wolfgang Petersen's Troy and Oliver Stone's Alexander. The sharp rise can be attributed to the fact that inward investment into the UK in 2002 was still recovering from the effects of September 11 and the SAG strike, which affected forward scheduling.
Inward investment figures do not include the UK spend on 12 Asian films which shot or partly shot in the UK, because their budgets were under £500,000.
The number of indigenous films shot last year increased by 21% to 45, from 2002's total of 37. This translates into a spend of £277.7m, up 77% from £156.4m in 2002. Last year's UK productions included Pathe's Gurinder Chadha musical Bride And Prejudice and Charles Dance's Ladies In Lavender. However, the Film Council's indigenous figures include overseas-backed Working Title projects such as Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason and Thunderbirds, which may help explain the rise.
The number of co-productions involving UK producers (other than inward investment), such as the UK-French The Magic Roundabout, increased to 102 in 2003, up from 66 in 2002 and spending on these films increased to £162.83m last year, a 27% rise from £128.23m in 2002.
"The high numbers of co-productions highlight the truly global nature of the film industry and the key, and increasing, role that the UK plays within it," said British Film Commissioner Steve Norris, head of the UK Film Council's International Department which compiled the figures. "If we are to make the most of this success we need to ensure that we continue to offer the skills and infrastructure necessary both to attract overseas film-makers to use them, and we need to improve distribution to ensure that more British films are able to be seen by audiences at home and abroad."
Films minister Estelle Morris said: "The international film industry has harnessed UK talent to make some of the box office hits of 2004. This is a tribute to the wealth of expertise we have to offer both behind and in front of the camera. Today's report proves what a huge contribution our film industry makes to the UK economically as well as culturally."
Prospects remain strong for 2004, although 2003's totals are unlikely to be repeated because of UK capacity, and the fact that the strength of the pound against the dollar has weakened the UK's competitiveness against the US. The Film Council also predicts a considerable reduction in the number of UK minority co-productions is likely as regulations relating to this area begin to tighten.
This year, the Film Council has adjusted its classification of film shoots relating to the UK, and has updated 2002 figures so that comparisons are equal.