BFI Report Reveals New High for UK Cinema Admissions

PRESS RELEASE – London – February 1, 2019: Official figures published today by the British Film Institute’s Research and Statistics Unit reveal continued growth, with the highest level of cinema admissions since 1970, a growth in the box office market share achieved by independent UK films and continued high levels of production investment across high-end television and film, reinforcing the UK’s global reputation as a world-leading center for film and TV production.

A combination of blockbuster films led by Avengers: Infinity War, followed by Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again—the top two grossers of the year—and independent UK films such as Darkest Hour and Johnny English Strikes Again, drove a strong year at the UK and Republic of Ireland box office. Collectively, films released in 2018 attracted 177 million admissions, representing a 3.7% increase on the previous year and a box office value of £1.387 billion. The appetite of UK audiences for cinema is further demonstrated by the UK’s growth in admissions, which counters decreasing results elsewhere around the world and is particularly notable in a FIFA World Cup year.

The market share of independent UK films at the box office in 2018 was 11.7%, an increase from 9.5% in 2017 and at the third highest point in a decade. When UK-made, studio-backed films are added to the picture—e.g.. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Bohemian Rhapsody, Mary Poppins Returns and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald—the full UK market share increases to 44.8%, the highest since records began.

The spend on high-end television and film production in the UK in 2018 reached £3.1 billion. This is the second-highest year on record, following 2017’s record performance of £3.28 billion, demonstrating the continued excellence of UK talent, crews, VFX and production services, locations and the supportive fiscal environment created by the UK’s creative sector tax reliefs, which collectively attract vital inward investment into the UK film economy and support indigenous production.

Films made in the UK in 2018 and in the pipeline for release in 2019/2020 includes both inward investment blockbusters such as JJ Abrams’ Star Wars Episode IX, Kenneth Branagh’s Artemis Fowl, Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman, Stephen Gaghan’s The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle, Michael Engler’s Downton Abbey, Gavin Hood’s Official Secrets, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984, Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts, Rob Letterman’s Pokemon: Detective Pikachu; and independent UK films including  Danny Boyle’s All You Need Is Love, Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light, Romola Garai’s Outside, Rupert Goold’s Judy, Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour, Marc Munden’s The Secret Garden, Billie Piper’s Rare Beasts and Richard Starzak’s Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon.

The surge in new high-end television productions made in 2018, which achieved a record year-on-year spend, included The Crown, The ABC Murders, Black Mirror, Call the Midwife, Catherine the Great,  Luther, The Little Drummer Girl, The War of the Worlds and The Witcher.

Margot James, Digital and Creative Industries Minister said: “These statistics confirm yet again that the UK is truly a global powerhouse for the screen industries, with a strong showing from our independent film sector. Billions of pounds are spent every year on film and high-end TV in the UK, and we will continue to back the sector to further strengthen this success story.”

Amanda Nevill CBE, CEO of the BFI, noted: “In a time of seismic change, today’s figures prove that film and television are thriving, a vital creative industry that is outstripping other sectors. With spend for film and high-end television production at almost £3.1 billion, we remain one of the most in-demand places in the world to create moving-image content. The benefits are being felt UK-wide, with production expanding in the nations and regions, boosting the economy, building skills, creating jobs and giving opportunities for people of all backgrounds to join our industry. Film is a global business and our creativity and talent remain one of the UK’s most potent exports as we navigate new relationships internationally. Audiences are increasingly watching film and television on a variety of platforms and at the same time are going to the cinema more than ever. Such a healthy market share for independent UK films suggests that audiences’ appreciation for homegrown stories, as well as big global blockbusters, is on the rise.”

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission and Film London, added: “It is hugely rewarding to see today’s figures reflecting the UK’s flourishing screen sectors. Film and high-end TV are big business and year after year we are privileged to welcome inward investment productions to every region and nation of the UK, drawn here by our global reputation as a leading center for world-class talent, facilities and technical expertise. This demand, and our collective success in consistently delivering at the highest level, ensures we are able to continue driving economic growth and job creation, which in turn provides training opportunities for talent from every background. Such is the volume of incoming projects, throughout 2018 we saw significant increases in the value of film and HETV based in the UK the previous year—increases of 10% and 18% respectively—so we look forward to revisiting 2018’s inward investment figures later in the year.”


Film production in 2018

The year saw 202 feature films go into production with an interim total spend of £1.924 billion, the second-highest recorded level of production spend on record.  This interim spend figure is an 11% decrease on 2017’s record consolidated spend in 2017 of £2.153 billion; however, the two annual spend figures are not like-for-like. At this point last year, the interim production spend reported across all categories of film productions was £1.91 billion (later consolidated at £2.15 billion); thus, the 2018 spend indicates a level of consistency in spend. Consolidated spend figures for 2018 will be published later this year.  

Of the 202 films which went into production in 2018, 131 were domestic UK films, with a total interim spend of £295.3 million, up 17% from £253 million last year. Independently produced domestic titles in 2018 include Shola Amoo’s The Last Tree, Danny Boyle’s All You Need Is Love, Peter Cattaneo’s Military Wives, Kenneth Branagh’s All Is True, Simon Bird’s Days of the Bagnold Summer, Dominic Brigstocke’s Horrible Histories the Movie: Rotten Romans, Gurinder Chadha’s Blinded by the Light, Romola Garai’s Outside, Sarah Gavron’s Untitled Girls Film, Rupert Goold’s Judy, Hong Khaou’s Monsoon, Catherine Lindstrum’s Nuclear, Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour, Marc Munden’s The Secret Garden, Sacha Polak’s Dirty God, Billie Piper’s Rare Beasts, Craig Roberts’ Eternal Beauty, Jerry Rothwell’s The Reason I Jump, Marjane Strapi’s Radioactive, Richard Starzak’s Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon and Jessica Swales’ Summerland.

2018 saw £1.60 billion being spent by 51 major inward investment films basing themselves in the UK, in comparison to the interim spend reported this time last year of £1.69 billion.  2017’s spend was finally consolidated at £1.868 billion, therefore 2018’s final figures can be anticipated to follow similarly.

Inward investment films made in the UK during 2018 include JJ Abrams’ Star Wars Episode IX, Tom Harper’s The Aeronauts, Kenneth Branagh’s Artemis Fowl, Dexter Fletcher’s Rocketman, David Leitch’s Hobbs and Shaw, Jean-Philippe Vine’s Ron’s Gone Wrong, F. Gary Gray’s Men in Black International, Thea Sharrock’s The One and Only Ivan, Bill Condon’s The Good Liar, Gavin Hood’s Official Secrets, Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Far From Home, Guy Ritchie’s Toff Guys, Ric Roman Waugh’s Angel Has Fallen, Paul Feig’s Last Christmas, Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 and Stephen Gaghan’s The Voyage of Doctor Dolittle. Inward investment films scheduled for production this year including the new James Bond film, Black Widow, Mobius, Kingsman: The Great Game and 1917.

There were 20 UK co-productions going into production in 2018 with a spend of £24.0 million, compared to the interim spend in 2017 of £29.4 million (published January 2017), later consolidated at £32.0 million. Co-productions included Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You, Agnieszka Holland’s Mr. Jones, Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe, Nick Rowland’s Calm With Horses, Seamus Murphy’s A Dog Called Money, Sean Durkin’s The Nest and Huang Jianxin’s Special Couple.

Box office in 2018

Leading the box office was Avengers: Infinity Wars, which took over £70.8 million, followed by Mamma Mia! Here We go Again (£65.5 million), Incredibles 2 (£56.2 million), Bohemian Rhapsody (£52.0 million) and Black Panther (£50.6 million). Nine of the year’s top 20 performing films at the UK box office were UK/USA productions (ten including Peter Rabbit which was Aus/USA/UK) using the UK’s facilities, talent, crew and locations, again demonstrating the strength of the UK as a global production base, making films that export worldwide.

The market share of independent UK films at the box office in 2018 was 11.7%, an increase from 9.5% in 2017 and at the third highest point in a decade.  When UK-made, studio-backed films are added to the picture, the full UK market share increases to 44.8%, the highest since records began.

Darkest Hour was the leading independent UK film released in 2018, with £24.1 million at the box office, followed by Johnny English Strikes Again (£17.7 million), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (£15.3 million) and Early Man (£11.2 million). The top 20 films illustrate the continued range of independent UK films which achieved success at the box office with different genres and filmmaker voices.  There were stories rooted in important historical events such as Darkest Hour and Peterloo; cinematically visionary films such as Widows and Phantom Thread; stories originating from literary work such as the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and The Children Act; British comedy with Johnny English Strikes Back; animation with Early Man and Isle of Dogs; and contemporary British stories that struck a chord with audiences such as King of Thieves.