Lottery helps British blockbusters reap box-office takings of £126m

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The Independent Culture

The British film industry is emerging from the commercial shadows of Hollywood after a string of blockbusters, the UK Film Council said today.

Recent successes including Gosford Park, Bend It Like Beckham and The Magdalene Sisters were in part due to the allocation of over £13m of National Lottery grants to the council over the past two years, a spokesman said.

During that period, 20 British films were made with the assistance of lottery grants, attracting audiences of 31.5 million across the world and generating a combined box-office revenue of nearly £126m.

John Woodward, chief executive of the UK Film Council, which co-financed the films, said that the British film industry benefited extensively from the grants.

"Without support from the lottery and the tax incentives provided by the Government these films would not have been made," he said.

"Our film talent would have had less opportunity to develop their skills, and millions of people in the UK and across the world would have lost the opportunity to enjoy exciting films."

The most commercially successful of the 20 British films wasGosford Park. The film, about a murder in a country house in the 1930s starring Maggie Smith and Michael Gambon, took £49.3m at the box office.

Bend It Like Beckham, which launched the career of Keira Knightley, was next with takings of £39.7m followed by The Importance of Being Earnest, (£10.7m), starring Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Judi Dench and Reese Witherspoon. A further nine films took more than £1m each, while at the other end of the spectrum four productions took less than £100,000.

Bend It Like Beckham, Gosford Park, The Importance of Being Earnest and The Magdalene Sisters each attracted more than one million cinema-goers worldwide.

Many of the films were released to critical acclaim. Julian Fellowes, the screenwriter of Gosford Park, won an Oscar for his work on the film.

But Mr Woodward said that the industry required less restrictions in order to generate more successes. He said: "There is still a long way to go. The release of many UK films has been restricted owing to market conditions, limiting the number of people who actually have the opportunity to see what are often imaginative and entertaining films."

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