pounds 3.3bn British film industry is booming

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The Independent Online
THE BRITISH film industry is now a network of small businesses, most of them operating with fewer than 10 employees, a new report shows. It has gone from a world-famous but precarious studio system to a thriving pounds 3.3bn enterprise run by literally thousands of small companies.

The latest edition of Cultural Trends, from the independent Policy Studies Institute (PSI), describes the current state of the film industry as a "pounds 3.3bn small business".

It states: "In its postwar heyday, the British film industry boasted world-famous production studios such as Ealing, Gainsborough, British Lion, Rank, London Films and British International Pictures. Half a century later, the industry consists largely of small companies with fewer than 10 employees and high numbers of part-time and self-employed workers."

The report says that there are now around 3,000 businesses engaged in film and video activities. There was an 11 per increase in the total number of film and video businesses between 1996 and 1997.

The PSI stresses the industry's growing contribution to the economy. Turnover of film and video activities increased by 62 per cent, from pounds 2bn in 1995 to pounds 3.3bn in 1996. United Kingdom earnings by film companies from overseas markets rose from pounds 587m in 1993 to pounds 672m in 1997.

The continuing transformation of the industry is shown by the fact that nearly 80 per cent of all UK film and video enterprises had a turnover of less than pounds 500,000; nearly 90 per cent of film and video businesses had fewer than 10 employees, 98 per cent had fewer than 50 employees, and a total of only 10 companies employed more than 250 people.

Sara Selwood, the editor of Cultural Trends, commented: "The figures confirm that the film industry makes a significant contribution to Britain's economy as well as its identity overseas. [But] one of the most striking findings of this report is how difficult it is to pull together data about the British film industry."

Cultural Trends 30: pounds 25; Telephone 01235 401000.