July 16, 2009 / 3:19 PM / in 8 years

British films grab 15 percent of '08 global box office

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - British films accounted for nearly one in six movie viewings at cinemas around the world in 2008, according to the UK Film Council.

The industry group said total revenues from domestic films, which include Hollywood studio productions with significant British input, rose to $4.2 billion last year, nearly $1 billion higher than in 2007.

Cinema admissions in Britain also edged higher to 164.2 million from 162.4 million in 2007, suggesting that the movie industry has been relatively resilient to the economic downturn as it was in recent decades.

“Whatever the trend was at the particular time, the recession didn’t seem to make a significant impact,” said David Steele, head of research at the council.

“It is unlikely the recession will have a bad impact on the box office,” he told reporters. “It started booming even more from October 2008, as if people were saying, we’re going to the cinema to escape the grim reality of economic life.”

Box office receipts in 2008 reached 850 million pounds ($1.40 billion), a 3.5 percent increase on the year before. By the end of June, 2009, box office numbers were up 22 percent on the same point in 2008.

But the DVD film market looks set to take “a bit of a hammering” in 2009 having held up last year, Steele said, adding that the closure of retail outlets and the economic downturn had contributed to an eight percent fall so far in 2009.

Film budgets are also coming under pressure, with the average budget for UK domestic films falling to 3.3 million pounds in the first half of 2009 from 5.6 million in 2003.

In terms of film production, 2009 started strongly, with total spending during the first six months reaching 535 million pounds versus 363 million in the same year-ago period.

Films like “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1” and an untitled Robin Hood adventure contributed to the rise.

Steele said the Film Council was not particularly worried about the prospect of the lucrative Harry Potter franchise coming to an end in 2011 after eight pictures.

“I don’t see any particular reason to think there won’t be something else after Harry Potter,” he said.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth movie in the series, has just opened in theatres, and Deathly Hallows, the final boy wizard story by J.K. Rowling, is being divided into two films. In 2008 the U.S./UK “Mamma Mia!” musical earned over 69 million pounds, making it the highest grossing film of all time at the British box office in nominal terms.

But in inflation-adjusted terms, the movie is fourth in the rankings of films released in Britain since 1975.

“Titanic” (1998) is top, followed by “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone” (2001) and “Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring” (2001). Fifth is the 1975 picture “Jaws.”

Editing by Paul Casciato

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