British film industry booms with takings up 45 per cent

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

British movies are increasing their profits at the box office with the top 20 films of 2004 taking £176m between them, an increase of 45 per cent on the previous year.

British movies are increasing their profits at the box office with the top 20 films of 2004 taking £176m between them, an increase of 45 per cent on the previous year.

Figures to be released next week show that films such as Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason and Shaun of the Dead recouped more than their original budgets from their UK audiences alone even if American films continued to dominate. Shrek 2 headed the list with a box office gross of £48m.

But the renewed popularity of British films comes amid warnings from movie-makers that new production in the UK is being devastated by uncertainty over tax breaks that are forcing film-makers to go overseas. Industry leaders are anxiously awaiting the details of changes to the tax relief system that were originally announced by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, in the Budget a year ago. They claim production has ground to a halt because nothing can be finalised until they know the details of how the new system will work.

They warn that, if the situation continues, next year could see a slump in British films at a time when cinema-goers are turning out in record numbers to see home-made fare.

Not all British movies are hitting the commercial mark. Some expensive projects performed poorly with Thunderbirds , which cost £39m to make, taking just £5.43m in cinemas and the £61m Steve Coogan remake of Around the World in 80 Days doing even worse.

But the UK Film Council figures show that the number of British films taking more than £3m at the box office doubled from eight in 2003 to 16 in 2004. Cinema earnings are usually expected to account for a third of a film's eventual revenue.

John Woodward, the Film Council's chief executive officer, claimed the growing demand was also reflected on television where six out of the 10 most popular movies were British.

Yet film-makers are in despair about the production slate for 2005 and are desperate for the fine print of the new relief for lower budget movies to be announced in next week's Budget by Gordon Brown or risk the damaging uncertainty continuing until after the general election. Section 48 of the Inland Revenue tax code, which gives relief to films with a budget of up to £15m, expires in July.

Comments