January 16, 2012 / 2:42 PM / 7 years ago

UK seeks ways to create own golden age of cinema

LONDON (Reuters) - The British government has urged its national broadcasters and audiences to get behind the country’s film industry to promote a cultural brand on a par with Hollywood and French cinema and maintain its current golden run of box office success.

British cinema has enjoyed a string of hits in recent years, from “Slumdog Millionaire” to “The King’s Speech,” and a government-appointed panel set out on Monday how it intended to maintain that form during the tough economic environment.

The review calls for British broadcasters to help fund and show British films; for financial support for a wide range of movies ranging from the small art-house movies to blockbusters and the reinvestment of profits into the industry to generate further success.

British Prime Minister David Cameron sparked controversy last week when he suggested that the British movie industry should focus on box office success rather than critical acclaim.

The movie industry is worth an estimated 4.2 billion pounds ($6.42 billion)to the British economy each year, but much of that comes from blockbusters like the Harry Potter franchise that are often bankrolled by Hollywood studios.

Independent British films had a share at the box office of just 5.5 percent between 2001 and 2010.

Film makers argue however that they cannot predict how successful a film will be until it has hit the screens and that they do not wish to merely recreate Hollywood-style movies in a hunt for financial success.

The government-appointed panel appeared to agree on Monday, saying it would look to support as many films as possible.

“British film is going through something of a golden period,” the report said. “A run of really good, successful, British-made and British-based movies has been taking not just British cinema audiences but many others around the world by storm.

“The key question, though, is how do we make this something that lasts for more than just an all-too-brief year? How do we secure greater consistency in the quality and success of British film?”

One of the suggestions includes returning the profits from a movie to the development and production teams, to encourage further investment in future films.

Funding for a film from a body such as the National Lottery used to be considered a loan that was expected to be paid back from the film’s income.

A British Film Week around the country showing old and new films was cited as a way to promote British movies while lessons in school could teach children about British film heritage, it said.

Broadcasters such as ITV and BSkyB were also urged to do more to promote British films, either through help in funding or through showing the films once they are released for television.

The BBC, the publicly funded broadcaster which dominates much of the media industry in Britain, invests 12 million pounds per year to British films and while the panel welcomed the support, it said it would like to see this increase further.

Chris Smith, a former secretary of state who produced the report, said television accounted for 80 percent of the total film audience, making the role of broadcasters all the more important.

($1 = 0.6542 British pounds)

Created by Kate Holton, editing by Paul Casciato

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