Government extension of film tax relief is welcome boost for British film and economy

Nik Darlington 11.20am

David Cameron has today announced the Government will extend film tax relief until the end of December 2015, following competition approval from the European Commission.

The film tax relief provided £95 million of support to the £1 billion British film industry in 2009/10, according to a ‘cultural test’. Films that qualified under this test include Brighton Rock, Coriolanus (right) and Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows.

In February, our in-house thespian and film critic Jack Blackburn criticised the Government’s decision to axe the UK Film Council, saying that films such as the celebrated King’s Speech could not have been produced without up-front assistance.

The UKFC had an aim to support British filmmaking, through lottery funding for production and distribution, as well as promoting Britain as a location for international film. It was a cornerstone for a thriving industry, whose achievements were numerous. Most striking is that for every £1 of the £160 million invested over the past decade, it generated £5.

And in August, Jack covered a British Film Institute report which revealed that the UK film industry contributed £3.3 billion to the national economy in 2010.

Film is clearly an important export for the UK and no longer just because Brits make good toffs, spies and villains in Hollywood flicks. Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said:

The huge success of British films at the Oscars, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs this year is clear recognition of our world-class talent and creativity. But as a vital creative industry, it also has huge potential for economic growth. Film tax relief is at the heart of our drive to support the production of culturally British films within a sustainable and vibrant industry. I’m delighted that we can give certainty to the industry for the next four years.

Any Government support, in a year that it seemed as though support was lacking, is very welcome. Especially when there’s the possibility of economic growth to be mentioned.

UK film industry needs our support as audiences fall and Harry Potter departs

Jack Blackburn 6.00am

The UK Film industry contributed £3.3 billion to our GDP in 2010. In these tough times it needs and deserves our support.

Box office figures for the UK in 2010 are something of a paradox. Admissions are up. Receipts are up. Explanation? 3D.

But one of the reasons I despise 3D is that it costs more to see a 3D film than a 2D film. And for no reason, as far as the consumer is concerned. There is no difference in quality. Consumers see no reason why we should pay more for one film over another.

Nevertheless, it was the success of films such as Toy Story 3 that led to the upturn at the box office, as 3D films contributed 24 per cent of total revenue for the UK and Ireland.

However, the most important figure is also the most depressing: less people are going to the cinema.

This could turn out to be one of the most turbulent weeks on global financial markets in my lifetime. The crises afflicting economies worldwide are entering a second stage of turmoil. With cuts being employed as medicine, people have less money to spend and for cinemas this means fewer admissions. The industry needs to brace itself for a contraction in the coming years.

As far as concerns British films, a British Film Institute (BFI) report is keen to highlight the success of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, but that is a franchise that as of this summer has been and gone. Once the revenue from Part Two has been counted (with the expected 3D bonus), the nation’s film industry has a vacuum that may not be filled. British productions may need supporting in the future.

The other thing the report highlights is the value of big films being made in Britain by outsiders, including Hollywood and Bollywood. This remains British film’s strong point. Directors such as Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese, and films like X-Men: First Class and Captain America, have all had an involvement in the UK in the last year. The appeal of filming in Britain persists but film-makers can go elsewhere if the UK becomes economically unviable.

Only the biggest optimist would say that the BFI’s report is encouraging. Tough times lie ahead, even if the current state of our film industry is strong. They key to success in the coming difficult years is to continue to support it.

For more on this subject read: 'The King's Speech its last hurrah, is the UK Film Council a cut too far?' by Jack Blackburn (23 February 2011)

You can read more of Jack’s work at the Reel 6 blog, and follow him on Twitter @BlackburnJA

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