Harry Potter works magic on UK box offices

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The Independent Culture

Home-produced films such as the latest Harry Potter adventure, Wallace and Gromit's return to the big screen and Nanny McPhee took the British box office by storm last year, helping local cinemas defy a worldwide dip in audience sizes.

Eight out of the 20 films most popular with British audiences in 2005 were made in the UK although they were all co-productions with America.

British productions, including Pride and Prejudice, Valiant and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy accounted for a third of the £770m taken at British cinemas, the highest figure since reliable records began.

Worldwide, British films made £1.6bn billion and were seen by 600 million people, taking a 14.3 per cent share of the market. This compared with $1.4bn in 2004 which was a 10.3 per cent share.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth in the JK Rowling series, was the biggest hit, taking more than £48m at the UK box office and 434m worldwide. The other British - or UK/USA co-production - hits were Batman Begins and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

The figures, the most comprehensive picture of the British film industry, are released in a new report from the UK Film Council published today. Its research and statistics unit concludes that it was "an excellent year for UK films" which accounted for a fifth of all movies released in Britain.

But that was tempered by the evidence that box-office revenues were stable rather than growing, video revenues were down and the amount of UK production fell - though that was primarily a consequence of delays in finalising new tax breaks for film-makers. Total box office receipts were unchanged from 2004, but still an 87 per cent increase on a decade ago.

Admissions were 3.9 per cent down on 2004 at 165 million, but this still meant Britain defied a much greater downturn elsewhere. Ticket sales fell by 9 per cent in America, by 19 per cent in Germany, 12.5 per cent in Spain and 10 per cent in France - even though all those countries have more cinema screens per head of population. Despite the blockbusters, there has also been a massive increase in the diversity of foreign language films being screened. More than 200 foreign language films in 32 different languages ranging from Farsi to Telugu took nearly £27 million at the box office, a 57 per cent increase since 2002.

Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, said: "Harry Potter, Nanny McPhee and Willy Wonka have all been hits at home and abroad - helping us achieve great success at the box office.

"I hope that next year, buoyed by the new tax incentive, the UK film industry will be in even better health."

Teenagers and young adults were the most frequent cinema-goers but the over-35 audience has increased substantially.

Family-orientated films - that is, those carrying 12A certificates - accounted for the largest share of the box office at more than 40 per cent. Comedy was the top-grossing genre, of which the star-studded Meet the Fockers was the biggest hit.

Dramas and comedies with romantic themes appealed most to female audiences while action films, science fiction and fantasy tended to pull in the men.

Top films (with box office gross in £m)

1. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire* 48.59

2. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe 43.64

3. Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith 39.43

4.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 37.46

5. Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit 32.00

6. War of the Worlds 30.65

7. King Kong 30.04

8.Meet the Fockers 28.93

9. Madagascar 22.65

10. Hitch 17.39

11. Nanny McPhee 16.49

12. Batman Begins 16.42

13. Pride and Prejudice 14.57

14. Mr and Mrs Smith 13.59

15. Wedding Crashers 13.16

16. Fantastic Four 12.71

17. Ocean's Twelve 12.58

18. Robots 12.48

19. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy 10.67

20. Valiant 8.52

Box office results for the top 20 films released in the UK and Republic of Ireland, 2005

Source: Nielsen EDI,RSU analysis