Brits bag billions in film, TV production


Film production in the United Kingdom soared 35 per cent to almost $2.3 billion during 2014 as tax breaks lured stars from Tom Cruise to Scarlett Johansson.

London alone accounted for $1.8 billion of production spending, eclipsing France’s $1.1 billion, or also-ran Italy.

“We’ve suddenly become this really massive centre for global content production,” said Adrian Wootton, chief executive of Film London, a non-profit that promotes the industry.

Governments across Europe are competing for investment from the creative industries by offering tax breaks to filmmakers and video game developers. Seventeen movies with budgets of at least $54 million accounted for 89 per cent of British film production spending in 2014, says Film London.

Oscar winners, The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game, as well as Paddington featured local sights from Buckingham Palace to the Law Society. Mission Impossible 5 and the latest James Bond feature, Spectre, are in the works.

The tax credits “have given us a seat at the table to be able to compete internationally,” said Wootton “We’ve had more large-scale American finance feature film shooting in the U.K. than anywhere in the world outside of North America.”

About three quarters of Britain’s film industry is based in and around London and it’s expanding. The Warner Bros. studio in Leavesden, where the Harry Potter series was shot, built three new sound stages and 100,000 square feet of office space.

At Pinewood Studios, where Spectre is being filmed, a $365-million expansion is underway.

While London has always had a film industry, the introduction of tax relief by Gordon Brown set the stage for today’s boom.

Now, companies that produce films costing more than $36 million can claim a cash rebate of up to 20 per cent, which could rise to 25 per cent and include highend television shows.

Last year, 24’s action hero Jack Bauer – played by Kiefer Sutherland – fought off a fictional drone attack that took in scenes from Wembley Stadium to the London Eye. Elsewhere in the suburbs, the latest instalment of the Star Wars saga is coming to fruition, and Hugh Jackman will become Blackbeard in the remake of Peter Pan.

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