Even the most godly superheroes have their price: the Government has paid a record £22.4 million towards the production of a Disney movie about Thor, the Norse god of thunder and latter-day comic book character, under a deal to encourage movie-making in the UK.
Revealed in newly released company documents, the sum handed to the American media giant by HM Revenue & Customs, as a reward for choosing Britain as the location for filming Thor: The Dark World, is believed to be the largest amount ever paid out under the Government’s film tax credit scheme.
The blockbuster sequel, starring Chris Hemsworth in the title role alongside Sir Anthony Hopkins and Nathalie Portman, culminated in a battle scene filmed at the historic Royal Naval College in Greenwich, south London. According to industry analysts Box Office Mojo, it grossed £376 million following its release in November last year.
Under the tax credit scheme, movies with an expenditure of more than £20m are able to claim back up to 20 per cent of their production costs. The second instalment in the Thor movie franchise qualified easily – costing £145.7 million to make, with £17.4 million paid to a production team whose staff at one stage peaked at 461 people.
The payout for the most recent Thor movie, issued between April 2011 and October 2013, even eclipses the £18.8 million received by Disney for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, which is thought to be the most expensive movie ever made with costs of £240.7 million.
The record could soon be surpassed again. Filming is under way at Pinewood for Disney’s sequel to its 2012 Marvel comics blockbuster Avengers Assemble, which was the third highest-grossing movie in cinema history.
Disney also picked Pinewood as the home of Star Wars: Episode VII. Landing one of the most talked-about movies in recent years was a feather in the cap for Chancellor George Osborne, who was pictured at the Buckinghamshire studios with the film’s director, JJ Abrams.
“I have been determined that we back our brilliant creative industries which is why we have invested in skills and training as well as providing tax relief for films, high-end TV, animation, video games and regional theatre,” Mr Osborne said at the time. He added it was “great news for people working at Pinewood Studios, from the set designers to the carpenters”.
Video: Watch the trailer for Thor: The Dark World
Last month Pinewood reported that its profits almost tripled to £3.6 million in the year to the end of March, thanks to an increase in the number of Hollywood productions being filmed there. The studio is now preparing to take advantage by doubling its filming space with a £200m expansion. Shepperton and Ealing are among the other British studios hoping to benefit.
Tax relief on filmmaking costs the Treasury around £150 million annually, according to the British Film Institute. But it has been estimated to yield a return of £12 to the UK’s GDP for every £1 that is spent, by encouraging producers to base their crews here.
However, Edgar Wright, the director of British movies Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, has argued that “while the tax break is good for Hollywood films shooting here, it’s probably not that great for British films shooting in the UK. Some middle-to-low budget films are going to find themselves without crew because all the American films are shooting here”.Reuse content