International film and HETV production spend in the UK tops £2.34bn in 2020 despite initial impact of COVID-19

Thursday February 4 2021

UK Film and High-End TV (HETV) inward investment figures released today by BFI demonstrate the UK screen industry’s resilience as it continues on the road to a strong recovery following the shutdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this global suspension in production, inward investment spend in 2020 from major international productions has reached £2.34 billion, highlighting the ongoing strength and creativity of the UK’s screen industries.

The British Film Commission (BFC), the UK agency responsible for attracting and supporting major international film and TV productions, has provided support and guidance to productions and companies accounting for 91% of the total inward investment HETV spend in 2020, and 93% of inward investment feature film spend in the UK.

In 2019, HETV production reached £1.294 billion – a 51% increase on the previous year, making it the largest on record, and film production reached £1.742 billion – a 17% increase on the previous year.

Like most industries, the screen sector was brought to a standstill by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown restrictions put in place to combat it. As part of BFI’s COVID-19 Taskforce, the BFC led on the creation of the ‘Working Safely During COVID-19 in Film and High-end TV Drama Production’ guidance, in liaison with Government and industry. The guidance was published at the start of June 2020, allowing much of the paused production to restart, and new projects to begin filming.

The figures released by the BFI’s Research and Statistics Unit today show inward investment spend on HETV production reached £1.128 billion in 2020 – a 29% decrease on 2019’s figures.

Feature film production generated £1.213 billion in inward investment spend in 2020 – a 32% decrease on 2019.

UK-made HETV and film titles contributing to this year’s figures span the regions and nations, including New Regency feature The Northman based at Belfast Harbour Studios, Cinderella at Pinewood Studios, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them 3, Mission: Impossible 7 and The Batman at Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden and historical drama series Anne Boleyn in Yorkshire, England.

The UK’s world-class VFX and post-production facilities had to adapt quickly to a new way of working during the COVID-19 pandemic, using technological innovation and pioneering remote solutions. Productions carrying out VFX and post-production in the UK during 2020 included Disney +’s Christmas-set fantasy, Godmothered.

UK-made productions released during 2020 also made their mark including Regency-era romance Bridgerton, which was filmed in South West England and London and enjoyed a record-breaking debut on Netflix.

Productions shooting in the UK in 2021 include Amazon’s The Rig at Scotland’s First Stage Studios, Netflix’s The School for Good and Evil in Northern Ireland, Season two of Apple TV+’s Ted Lasso in London and Lucasfilm’s Star Wars: Andor at Pinewood Studios and Willow in Wales.

Adrian Wootton OBE, Chief Executive of the British Film Commission, said: “As today’s figures show, production recovery in the UK is well underway and demand for content is not only still there, but in fact greater than ever before. Our sector, like many, has faced unprecedented challenges, but thanks to the sheer talent of our workforce and the creative and technological innovation of our companies and infrastructure, we were swift in developing ways of continuing to produce outstanding content. Film and high-end TV have an important role to play in the UK’s economy, providing UK plc with billions of pounds into the nations and regions and supporting hundreds and thousands of jobs.”

Ben Roberts, BFI Chief Executive, said: “After an unbelievably tough year, today’s figures show an incredibly vibrant and positive picture for film and TV in the UK. Last spring it was hard to imagine that we would be generating £1 billion worth of production activity in the final quarter which has been achieved by industry and government pulling together and the determination of our workforce to get back up and running. This sector is primed to grow with expansion underway in studios and production hot spots across the UK, delivering more jobs and more to the economy. It’s been a challenging year for cinemas but we remain optimistic for the day when we can welcome back audiences and it’s brilliant to see some of the UK’s greatest talent making big pictures such as 1917 which topped the box office before the pandemic hit.”

Throughout 2020, the British Film Commission provided support to major projects and companies in a variety of ways. This includes troubleshooting within all areas of production (COVID-19, locations, UK stage space, Brexit issues, visas, UK tax relief) as well as a digital familiarisation trip and the UK Film and TV Week, showcasing the UK-wide offer to the TV and film industry in Los Angeles, in partnership with Creative England, Creative Wales, Film London, Northern Ireland Screen and Screen Scotland.



For further press information, please contact:

Lauren Preteceille, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, British Film Commission
M: 07778 607 855

Notes to Editors:

About the British Film Commission

The British Film Commission (BFC) is the UK Government’s national organisation responsible for international film and television production in the UK. Funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for International Trade and the BFI, the BFC leads on:

The BFC has industry sponsors who form the membership of the agency’s innovative public/private partnership: Angels, Disney, Harbottle & Lewis, HBO, Movie Makers, Netflix, Pinewood Studios, Saffery Champness, Warner Bros, 3 Mills, BBC Studios, Double Negative, Elstree Studios, Framestore, MPC, The Bottle Yard and Working Title.

The BFC is the national division of Film London.

About the BFI

The BFI is the UK’s lead organisation for film, television and the moving image. It is a cultural charity that:

Founded in 1933, the BFI is a registered charity governed by Royal Charter.

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