Paddington, Star Wars and the rise of the UK film industry

Paddington 2 is at the top of UK box office charts and Star Wars: The Last Jedi has just hit cinema screens. With two UK-made movies set to dominate the cinemas over Christmas, how much is the industry worth to the UK economy?

Big films like these are the most visible sign of growth in the UK film and television industry, which in 2016 contributed £7.7 billion to the UK economy, 80% more than five years earlier.

Gross Value Added (GVA) of film, video and television companies, 2008 to 2016

Download the data.

The film and television industry also has spin-off benefits for other parts of the economy too, in areas like advertising, set design, catering and tourism.

Film and TV growth driven by production

When we break down the film and television industry into its component parts, we can see that it’s production – the preparation and shooting of movies and TV programmes – that has grown the most in recent years. In 2016 it contributed more than £2.5 billion to the UK economy.

Breakdown of Gross Value Added (GVA) in film, video and television companies, 2008 to 2016

Download the data.

Distribution, which includes licensing films and television programmes and managing rights, contributed more than £3.5 billion in 2016 – almost three times as much as it did in 2008. We’ve seen that the contribution to the economy from film distribution can vary a lot from month to month, suggesting that payments from licensing agreements from media companies around the world are paid according to a quarterly schedule.

The growth in post-production (editing, graphics, sound and visual effects) and projection (showing films in cinemas) is not as dramatic, but still significant.

Employment is going up

In 2016 almost 60,000 people were working in the film industry; this figure has been rising since 2013, with some of the most notable increases in the production sector.

Employees of film companies, 2009 and 2016
Great Britain

Download the data.

Tax relief for films

The Creative Industries Tax Reliefs, introduced initially for film in 2007 and later expanded to support high-end TV, video games, animation and children’s programmes, appear to have played a major part in attracting big-budget productions to the UK.

Film Tax Relief allows film production companies to claim a cash rebate of up to 25% of the money they spend making the film in the UK (up to a maximum of 80% of the film’s core expenditure).

For a film to qualify as “British” for tax purposes, it either has to pass a “cultural test” based on how much of the story, setting, production and crew are British (or from the European Economic Area), or be an official co-production from a country which has a reciprocal agreement with the UK or through the European Convention on Cinematographic Co-production.

In the last decade the British Film Institute (BFI) has certified almost 2,000 films in this way, including many blockbusters.

Top UK-qualifying films1 at the box office, 2008 to 2017

Since 2007, HMRC have paid £2.3 billion of Film Tax Relief, representing almost £9 billion spent on making films in the UK. The full spend on film production in the UK since 2007 is £12.2 billion according to the BFI; this includes films which have not yet been given final certification as British.

Amount of Film Tax Relief paid (receipts basis), 2007-08 to 2016-17

Download the data.

Other Visual.ONS articles:

House prices: how much does one square metre cost in your area?
More mothers with young children working full-time
Holidays in the 1990s and now

If you like our Visual.ONS content and would like to see more, please sign up to our email alerts, selecting ‘stories and infographics’ under preferences.

For more information, please contact: