10 Distinguishing Features of UK Film Market – 2016/2017

October 22, 2017 12:54 pm Published by

10 Distinguishing Features of UK Film Market – 2016/2017

The purpose of this blog post is to identify some of the distinguishing features of the UK film market. There is a useful list of BFI statistical handbooks, published June 2017, for further and additional reading.


The US box office market is suffering and is significantly under 2016 returns. Although this may be the case, let’s have a look at this a little more closely. Overall, 2017 started off well, with record breaking figures from January – April 2017 (+11.9% from 2016). However, this trend did not continue with the third quarter (July to Sept) showing a decrease gross of -28.9%. In 2016, 1.3 billion box office tickets were sold, which since the early 2000’s is rather static. However, Q4 returns could be huge as we await the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Justice League, Paddington 2, Jumanji, Thor: Ragnarok…. 

So what does the UK Film Market look like? This will be based on BFI 2016 published data (June, 2017) and further research using boxofficemojo.com

Action and animation are the two most popular genres. For example, in 2016, the two genres are popular in the list of top 20 films, both in terms of number of releases and box office takings. Action was the highest earning genre of 2016, taking 21% of the box office from 7% of  releases. In 2016, Drama accounted for the highest proportion of releases (26%) but shared only 8% of the box office. Superhero films continue to be very popular, especially for DC/Warner Bros and Marvel Studios. 

UK admissions, since the early 2000s, has been fairly flat with most years’ admissions being in the range 165-170 million.UK box office receipts in 2016 were £1,228 million, down 1% on 2015. UK cinema admissions reached 168.3 million, down 2% on 2015. However, the ticket receipts have remained stable since 2007. However, this is different to other territories – for example: Slovakia (+23.9%), Czechia (+20.4%), USA (-3.7%). The top 100 films earned 92% of the gross box office, the joint second highest share  since 2009.  A total of 46 3D films were released in 2016, up from 34 in 2015; their 3D takings accounted for 7% of UK and Republic of Ireland box office revenues, down from 11% in 2015.  Nineteen films were released in the 3D IMAX format, grossing £29 million, 2% of total box office.  London accounts for 24% of Cinema admissions (40.6 m) with the Midlands admissions of 12.9% (21.8 m). In 2017, Beauty and the Beast had an opening weekend of $174m, compared to the record set by Civil War (Marvel) at $179m. In an interesting point, 2002 (which is seen as the flagship aim for box office returns), Spider-Man had a box office opening weekend of $114m. 

A large number of sequels or films that are related to an established franchise. In 2016, Sequels and franchise films make up 17 of the all-time top 20 chart, while 11 are  UK/USA collaborations.

Shares of admissions between 7-14 and 35-44 year olds has diverged since 2016, possibly due to increase of films being released that appeal to older age groups.

Walt Disney, in 2016, became the leading UK distributor in 2016. However, the same leading distributors do not change from 2006-2016. The average advertising spend for UK studio-backed films was £1.9 million, compared with £1.5 million in 2015; the average spend for UK independent films was £100,000, down from £200,000 in 2015. In 2016, Opening weekends represented 30% of the total box office.

The box office share of UK independent films is down to 7.4%, from 10.5% in 2015. UK independent films were, on average, in cinemas for 9 weeks, compared to USA films which were in cinemas for 12 weeks. However, Eddie the Eagle and Youth were in cinemas for longer than any other UK independent films, at 33 weeks each. The highest grossing UK independent film of the year, Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie, had been on release for 28 weeks to 19 February 2017.

In 2016, 6 in 10 films that were released within the UK were classed as ‘specialised’. There were 368 foreign language films released, but shared just 2.4% of the UK box office.

There was an increase of UK film production activity in 2016. This is up 13% from £1,416 million in 2015, and the highest total since records began. The UK spend associated with inward investment features was £1,334 million, up 16% from £1,147 million in 2015. Interestingly, UK films made with the backing of major US studios spent longer than other films, on average, in UK cinemas in 2016.

In 2016, Women made up 13% of directors and 16% of screenwriters of British films released in the UK in 2016 compared with 9% of directors and 14% of screenwriters in 2015.

At the end of 2016, the UK had 4,150 screens, 104 more than 2015, in 766 cinemas.  There were just over six screens for every 100,000 people, the same as in 2015, but lower than in countries such as the USA (12.5), France (9.0), Australia (8.6), Spain (7.6) and Italy (6.5). A standard way to gauge the level of cinema provision is by ‘screen density’, ie the number of screens per unit of population. According to IHS, in 2016, UK screen density was 6.4 screens per 100,000 people, up from 6.3 screens in 2015. This level of access to screens falls short of that in other major film territories: USA (12.5), France (9.0), Australia (8.6), Spain (7.6) and Italy (6.5). Germany’s screen density, at 5.4 screens per 100,000 people, is less than the UK’s. (The emerging major territory China had three screens per 100,000 people in 2016.)

Sources: 



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