The UK has created some of the most influential and loved cinema and television in the world. Its reputation in filmmaking, TV production, animation, and special effects is recognised globally.
Successes include the imaginative fantasies of Harry Potter and Doctor Who, the compelling TV series Game of Thrones, Line of Duty, The Crown, Broadchurch and Peaky Blinders, the Planet Earth and Blue Planet nature documentaries, and action movie franchises including the Bond series, Star Wars, and Avengers.
The independent television sector is responsible for some of the most iconic and ground-breaking television formats seen around the world. From formatted shows like The X-Factor, Strictly Come Dancing/Dancing with the Stars, Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Love Island to scripted dramas like Sherlock and Downton Abbey, the UK’s original programming has become must-see viewing from China to the Czech Republic. According to the BFI, inward investment in high end UK TV totalled £3.62bn in 2022.
In film, inward investment into the UK was £1.74bn in 2022. The top 20 film releases of the year in the UK and Republic of Ireland also feature six UK/USA feature films made in the UK: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, The Batman, Jurassic World: Dominion, Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore and Downton Abbey: A New Era.
The UK's history of excellence in publishing, music, theatre, and heritage, provides rich source material for screen storytelling. This cultural depth enables the UK to promote its diverse and vibrant way of life, influence how the world sees the UK, drive cultural exports, and help others tell their stories through international collaboration and inward investment.
The UK's highly skilled and versatile workforce in film and television is often cited as a draw by international studios that have invested in the UK, and one of the reasons behind the expansion of groups such as Pinewood Studios. Investment in new skills and training, and in ensuring the pipeline of UK talent into the industry is well supplied and diverse is part of the work of bodies such as Screen Skills.
In growth areas such as virtual production, the UK is developing national standards for training in high-tech roles to ensure the UK becomes a global centre of excellence in this field. Programme-makers have increasingly been adapting technology such as real-time engines from the video games industry to create new opportunities for more sustainable production processes.
Building on the huge expansion of studio space seen in the UK, technological innovation is set to support continued recovery from the pandemic and future growth that will require thousands of screen professionals from entry level apprentices and trainees to heads of department.
Film and high-end television production generates local business activity and jobs across the UK, as productions take advantage of state of the art facilities and locations that encompass gritty urban scenes, unique historical sites, and attention-grabbing natural backdrops.
For instance, the HBO series, Game of Thrones, made Northern Ireland a long-term production home, and in 2020, filming locations for The Batman took place in the North-West, the East of England, and Scotland.
UK locations attract screen-related tourism, generating about £600m in 2016, according to the journal Screen Finance, and support jobs and UK tax revenues. Visit Scotland estimated that about 8 per cent of visitors to the country were influenced by a TV or film programme, and picked out as one example the international appeal of the Scottish-film TV series, Outlander.
The UK also has internationally respected film and television schools, including the London Film School and the National Film and Television School, as well as highly regarded courses in Bournemouth, Leeds, Falmouth, Edinburgh and other areas. The UK’s visual effects industry often leads the way in innovation – the CGI which wowed audiences in Gravity, The Dark Knight Rises and the Harry Potter series was created by UK-based VFX houses.
Watch clips from high profile UK-made films below.
Tax reliefs for film, high-end television and animation have made production in the UK more attractive than ever. According to HMRC, the UK tax authority, in the financial year 2021-22, tax reliefs worth £1.66bn were paid out across the creative industries. Tax reliefs in high end TV accounted for 50 per cent of the total amount paid out and Film tax relief accounted for 31 per cent.
There were 85 claims made for ATR in relation to the 2021 to 2022 financial year, totalling £21 million of relief. Both the number and value of claims have remained consistent in recent years.
In addition, there is a publicly funded programme of support – via the British FiIm Institute (BFI), its partners including the agencies in the nations and regions, Screen Skills and Into Film, the British Council, the BBC and Channel 4 – for the development and promotion of creative and technical talent, for business enterprise and for audience development.
There is also the work of internationally recognised organisations such as BAFTA and the NFTS. A well-capitalised, digitally equipped exhibition sector has the capacity to show films in increasingly diverse ways, and the UK has one of the most developed VODs market in Europe (Source: Ampere analysis published by Ofcom).The UK’s rollout of super-fast broadband and well-established 4G mobile networks are likely to provide huge new opportunities for UK TV and film in partnership with the UK’s thriving technology sector.
The film and television sector is a major contributor to the UK creative industries economy, with a key role to play in the UK's cultural and economic wellbeing.
According to Pact, the TV Industry body, in 2022 UK TV revenues returned to growth levels seen before the pandemic, increasing by 21.3 per cent on 2021 to reach a record £3,944 million.While domestic TV revenue reached its highest ever level of £2,207 million, international revenues grew sharply by 70 per cent to reach £1,618 million. This growth is likely due to the return of multiple major UK international productions The Crown and Sex Education, the UK launch of Apple TV and Disney + and the ongoing attractiveness of the UK TV market to global buyers.
The BFI estimates that the combined spend by film and high-end television production (HETV) during 2022 reached £6.27 billion, the highest ever reported and £1.83 billion higher than for the pre-pandemic year 2019.
The lion’s share of the total £6.27 billion spend was contributed by HETV production with £4.30 billion, or 69 per cent with feature film production contributing £1.97 billion, or 31 per cent of the total spend.
Inward investment films and HETV shows delivered £5.37 billion, or 86 per cent of the combined production spend underlining the UK’s global reputation as the world-leading centre for film and TV production.
The core UK film industry was estimated to contribute over £4.6 billion to UK GDP and support over 117,00 jobs, taking into account direct and indirect employment. (Source: Oxford Economics study for the BFI)