What you need to know about the UK film industry

What you need to know about the UK film industry

film reel across UK flag

Aside from our breathtaking countryside, abundance of pubs, and love of a good cup of tea, the UK has gained quite the reputation for its thriving film industry.

The UK has a long, successful cinematic history and has benefited from a staggering amount of British talent that has emerged throughout the course of film’s existence.

Film production

A rich history

French artist Louis Le Prince shot the world’s first moving picture in Leeds in 1888, and in 1889 inventor William Friese-Greene made the first moving pictures developed on celluloid film in Hyde Park.

These events marked the beginning of what would become the UK’s prosperous film industry. Since the earliest British films, the UK has been a cinematic force to be reckoned with.

Even in difficult times, the UK film industry has remained strikingly resilient and fought back against stiff international competition. From the mid-1920s the UK faced heavy competition from the US, which was blessed with a large home market and a surge in investment. The US posed such a threat that in 1926 only 5% of films shown in the UK were actually British and our overly-confident expansion into the overseas market caused a crash in 1937.

The UK, ever-resilient, bounced back, implementing new legislation such as the Cinematograph Films Act 1927 and 1938 which imposed a quota on cinemas requiring them to show a certain percentage of British films. This demand for British-produced film led to a surge in their creation, helping studios climb back from financial ruin and sheltering the industry from a competitive storm.

Since then Britain has seen the founding of British International Pictures (BFI) and London Films, the infamous work of Alfred Hitchcock, the emergence of the Documentary Film Movement and a host of cinematic stars from Margaret Lockwood to Idris Elba. The UK’s prosperous cinematic history gives context to the prolific industry that we have today.

Film production today


The UK film industry continues to flourish to this day. According to the BFI, in 2019 film production in the UK generated a total spend of £1.95 billion, which is not only a 17% increase on the previous year’s spending but the second-highest figure since these records began. 

It’s undeniable that the UK’s abundance of creative talent, world-class production facilities, high level of technical expertise, film tax relief  and support from the British Film Commission are to thank for the UK’s solid reputation as a key player in the international film scene.

Film admissions and box office

For nine consecutive years, the UK box office has exceeded £1 billion, reaching £1.25 billion in 2019. Despite a lull in admissions over the past decade, 176 million tickets were sold in 2019 – a 1% decrease from 2018. However, this was still a groundbreaking year, achieving the highest number of admissions for 40 years.  

In 2019, the UK saw 764 releases with 191 UK films, including 23 studio-backed films and 168 independent films. The UK box office share of UK films stood at 47%, whereas the UK box office share of US studio-backed films was 35% and independent UK films 13%.

Looking globally, the international share of UK films was reported as 25%, the international market share of US studio-backed UK films was 22.4%, and the international market share of independent UK films was 2.2%.

Major high-grossing international films are generating growth in the UK film industry, creating jobs and aiding the development of professional skills. For example, 2019’s Avengers: Endgame (at £88.7 million) was the top UK film in the UK and also the top film at the UK box office. The top UK independent film in the UK was Downton Abbey, generating £28.2 million.

The film industry’s value to the economy

The film industry in the UK continues to add enormous value to the economy, contributing £6.1 billion to UK GDP and exporting £2.6 billion worth of services in 2017 alone.

The film industry employs a wide range of skilled professionals such as special effects technicians and make-up artists, makes use of numerous external services and businesses, and is foundational to the role of UK film financiers. 

On-location shooting brings a further boost to local economies and can even boost tourism in an area. Just look at the bustling Notting Hill, which has attracted tourists from far and wide after the 1999 romantic comedy of the same name starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts became a global hit.

The UK film industry talent and awards

The UK continues to excel in the international stakes, raking in 26 awards (13% of those for which Films4u were eligible) during the 2019/2020 awards season, demonstrating a profound ability to capture the hearts of a diverse global audience. UK films continue to maintain their presence at international festivals, and British talent never ceases to win awards for their work on highly acclaimed international films.

The 2019 Oscars awards saw some talented British winners such as Olivia Colman, winning best actress for her role of Queen Anne in The Favourite and Mark Ronson for best original song in A Star Is Born. The sound engineer Paul Massey was awarded the sound mixing prize for Bohemian Rhapsody alongside John Casali and Tim Cavagin, as well as John Warhurst and Nina Hartstone for sound editing.

The event highlighted the diverse range of skills currently flourishing in the UK film industry.

Investing in UK film

As an asset that weathers economic downturns remarkably well, the booming use of streaming services is only adding to the increasing demand for quality films. One thing’s for sure, there’s never been a better time to invest in UK film.

Although it’s important to remember that the film industry can be a volatile and unpredictable industry for investors, this isn’t a cause for concern if you enlist the expertise of professionals. Done right, investment in film can provide you with a healthy return, and give you the satisfaction of knowing you’ve played a crucial role in the fruition of a successful creative project to be enjoyed worldwide.

Why invest with Films4U?

At Films4U we stick to a watertight investment strategy. As film financiers, not only do we rigorously vet our funded films through a multi-step assessment process, we also have partnerships with the UK’s largest distribution companies, and distribute directly to every key media provider.

Each film is guaranteed to be seen and generate a return, a reassuring fact for investors hoping to mitigate risk and maximise their return as much as possible.

We’ve amassed over 30 years experience in film investment and a rather impressive track record. Having funded over 600 films, we’ve successfully and consistently returned market-leading profits.

If you’re exploring your investment options and would like to discuss film financing and investment in the UK industry, then contact us or register your interest. We’d be happy to chat about the exciting world of film investment and answer any questions.

The information contained on this website should not be taken as financial advice or as a personal recommendation by Films4U. Before investing you should always seek appropriate legal and financial advice from an authorised person specialising in investments of this kind.

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