Hard times ahead for UK indie films despite box office boom

Homegrown films face uncertain future

The recession will continue to hit independent UK films hard, the UK Film Council has warned.

A new searchable website with fully comprehensive statistics from the UK Film Council has made it possible to gauge exactly how smaller films are being affected.

Despite a record year at the UK Box Office, the highest since 2002 with takings of £944 million, the economic slowdown will continue to negatively affect the budgets and takings of independently-funded films.

BBC News reports that feature films funded solely in the UK fell from 77 in 2008 to 71 in 2009, with overall budgets showing a drop in figures.

UK Film Council chief executive John Woodward blamed the economic slowdown and “the increasingly tough transition from the analogue to the digital age”.

He explained: “Low-budget independent production is a tough business – it always has been. I’m not saying this is a catastrophe, what I am saying there is something quite serious going on here. Around the world broadcasters are paying less for feature films, and there’s a slow erosion of the DVD market. The film industry has not managed yet to properly monetise the online space. Revenues are drifting away from DVD and TV, but they are not being replaced by online sales at the moment.”

So far, the British film industry has been coping well in the recession. The statistics show that 2009 was the most profitable year for UK independent films in history, taking 2.3 per cent of the global market share of profits.

But in 2010, Avatar, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Ice Age III were the three most popular films, which suggests that the advent of 3D film may be partially responsible for the new trend.

However, the hugely successful UK film Street Dance 3D provides some hope, having grabbed the Number One spot in May this year.

Partially funded by the UK Film Council, its profits showed that strategic marketing, including the procuring of early summer 3D cinema space, might prove to be a saving grace for smaller films.