The making of Hollywood hits such as the latest James Bond film No Time To Die and Sam Mendes’s 1917, as well as prestige dramas such as Netflix’s The Crown and the BBC’s His Dark Materials, fuelled a record spend of £3.6bn on film and TV production in the UK last year.
The amount spent on film production in the UK in 2019 rose 6% year-on-year to £1.95bn – on 188 productions – the second-highest amount since the British Film Institute (BFI) began records in 1994. Most of this spending came from the big Hollywood studios, which ploughed £1.4bn on making just 21 blockbusters.
Three of 2019’s top five grossing films at the UK box office were made in the UK – Avengers: Endgame, The Lion King, and Star Wars: The Rise of the Skywalker.
However, it is the streaming wars, led by Netflix, that are fuelling the boom in the UK production industry as the spend on high-end TV – shows costing more than £1m an episode to make – surged 29% to £1.66bn. This is a 51% rise on 2018 and double the amount spent on high-end TV show productions as recently as 2015.
More than three-quarters, or £1.3bn, came from foreign companies, including Netflix and Amazon. In contrast, spend by domestic UK companies on high-end TV shows, from the BBC to Sky and ITV, fell by 14% to £371m.
The overall boom in high-end investment pushed the total spend on film and TV production in the UK up 16% year-on-year to £3.6bn, the highest ever recorded.
“Film and high-end TV are big business, indeed we are the fastest growing sector in the economy, and today’s record breaking figures show the UK continuing to meet the growing demand for content, studio space and world-class skills, talent and technical expertise,” said Adrian Wootton, chief executive of the British Film Commission and Film London.
Netflix has said that it spent $500m (£400m) making more than 50 film and TV shows in the UK last year.
In October, the streaming giant began a long-term lease of Shepperton Studios, home to productions from Alien to Mary Poppins Returns, in order to guarantee it has the production space to continue to make its burgeoning slate of TV shows and films without delays.
Amazon, the second-biggest streaming service in the UK, is also a significant investor with productions including the big budget period drama The Spanish Princess, which is shot in Bristol.